Live Review: Black Sabbath @ O2 Academy, Birmingham, 19/05/2012

First of all I would like to highlight the predictability of this “review”, which can’t realistically be called a review, because that would imply it was an objective analysis. Attempting to write anything too derogatory about Black Sabbath might be compared to asking a devout Roman catholic to sodomize our good Pope Benedict XVI. This wouldn’t be a good example, because Black Sabbath are the creators, not an implement, secondly, I cannot vouch for the extent of sexual deviancy within the Catholic church.

After several hours of getting steadily giddier in Scruffy Murphies, (a place where a disregard for the decade leaves band t-shirts tightly tucked into denim) where the Sabbath discography was being worked through, we made our way to the O2 Academy. After being frisked and a quick bar visit it struck me that I was possibly going to have to stay in the same spot for the entire concert. The crowd were packed thick from the front to the very back and I had little hope of gaining much ground even if I coated myself in Vaseline drank away my conscience and ran screaming into these good people.

My worries about the view disappear when Ozzy’s voice screams out and an eruption of noise and raised hands is the crowd’s response. The Lord of the riff plays a rising scale and ‘Into The Void’, tears open the night. Concerns about the band’s enthusiasm or ability to play as they might have are immediately smashed. Ozzy sounds powerful and is as animated as I’ve seen him, grinning manically (possibly due to surgery) with blackened eyes, looking like an erratic jack in a box designed by Tim Burton. Tony’s flawless evil groove and biting licks are executed effortlessly, all while wearing his sun glasses and a thick leather jacket which must have been warmer than hell, his demeanour relaxed and emotionless bar the occasional telling smile. After War Pigs, Ozzy stated that people often complain about the lack of early material. The words “Black Sabbath” commence what was without a doubt the greatest part of the night. A glimpse into a part of history that created and evolved into heavy music as we know it today was possible, the intensity and raw heavy power of what Black Sabbath were in the early days electrified the atmosphere, with Geezer’s brilliant and ever changing bass lines maintaining the stomping groove throughout ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘The Wizard’, ‘NIB’ and ‘Fairies Wear Boots’.

It was during this frenzy of greatness that the androids I had situated myself amongst seemed to become increasingly disturbed by my movement, and general display of human emotion. Unequipped for dealing with this humanoid situation they began to shove and elbow me in confusion. For a brief moment, I stopped, puzzled. Tickets were hardly in abundance, this was a show for true Sabbath fans and these nerds are more concerned with me than the fucking Wizard and Lucifer! Ridden of guilt I informed them I wasn’t there to fry their circuits and ploughed through to much greener pastures (or a better view and section of the crowd).

The atmosphere had peaked and the coke fuelled uplift of ‘Tomorrow’s Dream gave way to the crushing Haze of ‘Sweet Leaf’. More early album greats came before the less predictable but very enjoyable ‘Dirty Women’. After being promised one more song if we were loud enough, very predictably, ‘Paranoid’ was played. I’ve never been sure why it’s a favourite and was a great deal more excited when they teased with the intro to ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ before playing it. The crowd explode one last time and a spectacular night is over.

It was a pleasure to see how much the band enjoyed it, with Ozzy joking amongst them, hugging Tony and calling him the Iron Man. The obvious void that Bill (Ward) left is a great shame and I’m sure he’ll feel that more than anyone. I’d be lying if I said that this put a downer on the performance in anyway, bar a “Bill”, chant that went pretty strong during a short drum solo. I’m not sure it was a very good idea to draw attention to the poor bastard sitting in (that’ll be Tommy Clufetos – PC) but he was soon rescued by the rest of the band. All in all Black Sabbath at the O2 Academy was the experience of a lifetime and one I’m honoured to have witnessed.
Michael Collins

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