Entertainment Centre, Brisbane, AUS, 25 Apr 2013
27 April 2013
Words and images by Simon Milburn
It’s hard to imagine that it’s been almost four decades since the founders of heavy metal, Black Sabbath, graced our fine shores. Whilst Sabbath reunions themselves are somewhat of an event in themselves, the fact that they’ve finally made it down under this time around is nothing short of a miracle. And the faithful followers showed their appreciation for this auspicious event by turning out in droves – old, young, middle age, Dads with the kids. This was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve ever seen at a metal gig. This was universal appeal at its best with many accepting they will probably never get this opportunity again.
Rockers from across the Tasman Sea, Shihad, opened the show to a very poorly filled arena. But that didn’t stop the energetic quartet from putting on an enthusiastic show. Their brief, barely 30 minute opening slot featured only a handful of songs received warmly by those who made the effort to get in early. Frontman Jon Toogood did his best to entertain the crowd making sure he used every bit of the stage as they belted out a half dozen songs that was ever so slightly skewed towards their classic efforts The General Electric (1999) and Churn (1993). These guys were truly chuffed to be supporting Black Sabbath and they did a more than a respectable job of kicking off tonight’s proceedings.
However, it’s amazing the difference half an hour makes. Somewhere between the end of Shihad’s set and well before Sabbath hit the stage – which wasn’t a huge amount of time – the venue had filled. I know that shouldn’t be surprising, but still. Anyways, Black Sabbath took the stage launching into War Pigs and the crowd erupted. From here on in, the Godfathers of Metal gave every single person in their presence a lesson in metal.
The years have been kind to bassist Geezer Butler and riff master Tony Iommi. Their performance was absolutely faultless. As much as fans will argue ‘til the cows come home about the absence of original drummer Bill Ward, no one will argue that Tommy Clufetos (Rob Zombie, Ted Nugent) did an amazing job behind the kit and locked in effortlessly with Butler to form one hell of a rhythm section. On top of that, what else can be said of the undisputed riff lord, Tony Iommi? Tony delivered classic riff after classic riff while barely breaking a sweat. He unleashed hell on his fret board much to the crowd’s delight as the group belted out the classics like Fairies Wear Boots, Black Sabbath, Iron Man and Children of the Grave. The new tracks from the band’s forthcoming album, 13, went down a treat with God is Dead? shining as the stronger of the pair.
The years haven’t been as kind to ol’ Oz though. He shuffles around the stage like a geriatric Thunderbirds character at times but still commands a crowd. Given his history, Ozzy’s performance tonight was as solid as can be expected. Sure, he has a very high dependency on an autocue that sits between his monitors on stage, but for the most part he nailed his performance. It wasn’t faultless. To be fair, Ozzy sounded downright terrible on Electric Funeral for example and there were a few other questionable lines here and there. Overall though, he was more than on his game. There were a couple of the obligatory buckets of water tossed over the first few rows of the floor area punters and Ozzy barely moved out of viewing range of his prompter, but on the whole, his performance tonight was infinitely better than his last solo outing here a few years back.
As I shuffled my way out of the venue with the masses, I couldn’t help but feel more than satisfied with what I’d just seen. Set list classics, check. New material, check. Solid performance, check. Multiple generations of metal heads got to see something special this evening. It’s possible, looking at the crowd, that some there were not seeing Black Sabbath for the first time, either. Anyone in tonight’s crowd witnessed one of metal’s greats for probably the last time in our fine country. It was long overdue and better late than never for sure. Either way, it was well worth the wait. Bloody awesome!