Black Sabbath @ Rod Laver Arena
Openers Shihad had the arduous task of warming up a crowd who gave their last shit for a support act during the Hawke years. You can kind of hear the debt Johnny Toogood and Co. owe to the headliners, but their riffs are too bludgeoning to prompt much of a reaction. Johnny leans heavy on throwing the devil horns to prompt a crowd response – but given that hand gesture was supposedly invented by Ronnie James Dio, would that be like a support band playing a Sammy Hagar song during a Van Halen show with David Lee Roth? Perhaps the promoter was left with slim pickings after every other hard rock band from this quarter of the planet was pinched to support Aerosmith. Whatever the case, the band still pump a lot of energy into their blink-and-you'll-miss-it set.
Of course, the crowd begins to chant "Ozzie" seconds after Shihad leave the stage, which may give some indication of the impression they made. There's very little time left to ponder the hard road of a support band, because soon your next thought is “holy shit, that's Tony Iommi…and he’s playing the opening to War Pigs!”
It's an acceptable six out of ten that's probably most useful at gauging Ozzie Osborne’s mental capacity. At times the reality TV caricature doesn’t seem too far-fetched, between the shuffle walking and leaning heavily on F-bombs. It seems he can either look animated or sing, but not simultaneously. The less that's said about Electric Funeral the better, but it begins a pattern that becomes familiar for Ozzie. A solid vocal performance one minute, fishing for pitch the next. At those times, it's better to focus on the unstoppable riff monster that is Iommi and Butler. You could watch them come up with sludgy chugga chugga riffs for days, and when they stretch out on instrumental sections, you can imagine your dad pondering the dawn of the universe as the record spins and things get really heavy. And this is before even delving into the mess that is their pinch drummer Tommy Clufetos, the only person that wasn't chewed up and spat out the wrong side of the ‘70s. His thunderous doom drums are precise and potent...but he also has a headband, is surrounded by drum pieces and gets a roadie to remove his shirt. You’re making it hard on yourself, buddy.
They save some magic for later parts of the set – like a bonkers drum solo that rolls into Iron Man – but you can almost hear hands reaching into pockets for phones as new songs like God is Dead? plod along. Apparently the band are dropping even the mere suggestion of poetic subtlety now – making Snowblind and Sweet Leaf sound intellectual by comparison. Launching into the intro of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath as a bit of misdirection before rolling through Paranoid as a finale was one of the few surprises of the night – you know there’s not much room for variation with Ozzie as he is. But even a sliver of their former dark lord brilliance is enough to send the crowd home happy.
BY MITCH ALEXANDER
Photo credit: Richard Sharman
LOVED: One of Iommi’s few recognitions of the crowd was a sly devil horns with a boyish smile – but he’s allowed to.
HATED: The idea that people paid mega-bucks to meet the band. Surely that can’t end well?
DRANK: The sweet fumes of sweaty metal dudes gulping rum and coke.