Live at Ozzfest
San Bernardino, CA
September 24th, 2016
Review and photos by Travis Baumann
Ozzfest 2016 was focused around one major event: the final West Coast performance of Black Sabbath. Ever. This is "The End", the aptly named final tour of the band that single handedly invented Heavy Metal.
As pioneers of dark and heavy music decades ago, they have influenced and inspired pretty much every single band I listen to. I have been listening to them since I was a child and never have seen them live so when this was announced, I made damn sure I was going to see this eponymous tour.
Ozzfest itself was packed with a large number of great bands and every one of them was also anticipating the headlining performance of the night.
Doing nothing less than the excessive levels we have come to anticipate from Ozzy and company, the production was a huge endeavor. A giant electronic screen spanned the rear of the stage above two walls of amps on either side of the raised drum platform.
As the screen came to life the audience cheered aloud but quickly quieted as the visual display wowed them. A large city was visible on the screen when a huge spherical shape cracked open revealing it to be a gestation chamber or egg for a gigantic winged demon.
The infernal creature rose out of its containment and stretched its massive limbs before smashing a hoofed foot down on to the ground. His mighty stomp set off a ripple of destructive energy that quickly overtook the massive city and spread over the entire earth until all was a flame.
And so, the legendary band, whom all had come to witness a final time, took the stage. A deafening roar went up across the thousands of spectators present in the amphitheater out in the desert as Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and the Ozzman himself, Ozzy Osbourne took to the stage.
They kicked off the concert with the song that started it all, their theme song: "Black Sabbath". This song was written under their original name "Earth" but at that time they decided they were going to go in an entirely new direction and build a thematic concept around occult and horror tones and changed the name to fit.
Needless to say, the audience was enraptured by it all. The huge screen had dark, sinister images that would transition to video feeds switching to the various members on stage but there was always some sort of demonic distortion running through and changing the images.
Ozzy announced each of the members starting with Mr. Tony Iommi on guitar followed by Geezer Butler on bass. They had a newer member playing drums for them, Tommy Clufetos, who was the only non-founding member present.
They played "Fairies Wear Boots" next which surprised me as I had not heard that one in a while but it is a really good driving song. Ozzy sounded good. He complained and apologized over a light cold he had, but honestly he sounded better to me here than on the "Reunion" live album they did some years ago.
Hitting an anticipated favorite of mine, they did "After Forever" from their third album, "Master of Reality". It has such driving riffs and great lyrics about the meaning of life, religion, and what comes in the after-life. Staying with material from that amazing album they followed it up with "Into the Void".
Advancing to a song from the album simply titled "Vol. 4", they did the classic hit, "Snowblind". I think I can speak for the entire crowd in that we were just mesmerized by it. Classic distorted heavy riffs that took me back pretty much throughout my entire memory as I listened. I had to keep pinching myself to stay in the moment and appreciate this very special occurrence.
There are a handful of songs out there that are so classic, so special that everyone shares them in their consciousness and are so recognizable that the audience only needs to hear two notes or a signature sound and without a doubt all present know what they are about to witness. "War Pigs" is such a song and Ozzy only had to sing every other line of the verses and put the mic out in front of him for the audience to respond with deafening resonance in return.
"Behind the Wall of Sleep" returned us to material from their debut self titled album and what a great song they chose. I love the ominous deep riffs setting a tone for Ozzy's equally dark and disturbing lyrics.
I got more than I hoped for however, as they continued directly in to Geezer's awesome bass solo with "Bassically" and went with the original released triad medley, transitioning into the sensationally sinister "NIB" which has always been one of my favorite songs.
Returning to their seminal sophomore album, "Paranoid" they did another favorite of mine, "Hand of Doom". I was so content with the set list up to this point, I was honestly in awe. They were focusing on all their primary songs from the first four releases that had made the world stand up and take notice.
After this epic anthem everyone left the stage except the drummer. He proceeded to pound out the most insane version of "Rat Salad" ever. This Tommy dude is sick! Everyone could see instantly why this guy got the job, it was jaw dropping (it just keeps going; hard to believe he could even lift his arms after that feat).
Ozzy and company returned to the stage and the front man had the audience cheer and go quiet, cheer and go quiet, and then cheer, cheer, cheer. He laughed and said, "You people are as crazy as me".
It was time for one of their two most known and played songs. One that just about everyone knows the lyrics to, and believe me, no one did not sing along to "Iron Man".
The next song really surprised me. Ozzy introduced it as saying this song is about Tony Iommi and it is called "Dirty Women". This song is off of "Technical Ecstasy" their seventh album and the only song from anything later than "Vol. 4" that they would perform. I was anticipating at least one song from their latest release "13", but definitely not this one. It has a good groove to it though, so I imagine that Tony must really like playing it live.
They finished up the set with another one of their heavily cited and covered songs from "Master of Reality", the strikingly prophetic "Children of the Grave".
The band left the stage and the audience cheered but in sort of stunned awe. We had just witnessed something that will not be repeated. Something that some of us had been waiting decades to experience and it was a good feeling. We were a part of something special here.
After a few minutes Ozzy returned to the stage. He said, "If you want to hear one more song, you need to be louder than that!" The audience responded in return. Ozzy of course taunted us with "I can't hear you!" and the returned deafening roar followed with more taunts eventually resulting in Ozzy laughing and saying "Their as crazy as I am".
With that, the remainder of the band came back out and they played "Paranoid", their biggest hit and still on rotation across the globe so many years later.
It was an amazing show, hard to believe in some ways, but no doubt everyone who didn't drink or smoke themselves into some sort of semi coma will remember it for the rest of their lives.
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