Besides being Easter Sunday, the stoner’s international holiday and, er, (for the history buffs out there) Hitler’s birthday, the significance of 420 in Calgary truly only came down to the return of metal masters Black Sabbath at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Any way you slice it, the reunification of the classic doom merchants was guaranteed to be more fun than ghoul’s night out. In front of a rabid capacity crowd, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and the oft-imitated, never duplicated guitarist Tony Iommi would not disappoint with this ultimate metal blast from the past.
The anticipation was thick, and the knowledge that we’ll never get this chance again was not lost on the wall-to-wall throng of delirious punters — indeed, this would be metal history in the making, and the band would not fall short. Not a chance.
The opening strains of War Pigs and the appearance of the classic line-up (minus sticksman Billy Ward) sent the crowd bonkers as Osbourne bounded around the stage like a man … well, every second of his 65 years.
Although in decent voice, one could easily argue that the weak link of the band in 2014 is indeed the cartoon-ish, paunchy prince of darkness himself. But what is Black Sabbath without Ozzy? I mean, besides the excellent Ronnie James Dio-fronted version, which released Mob Rules and Heaven And Hell.
The years of hard living and bad reality television have taken their toll on double O, but any vocal shortcomings and in-between-song warbling were exorcized with the pounding bass of Butler, the violent drumming of Tommy Clufetos (Osbourne’s touring drummer) and Iommi’s still effortless metal fretwork.
“How you doin’ out there, Calgary?” the Ozzman queried as the crowd went wild. “Happy Easter . . . F–k Easter! You sound like you want to party tonight!”
Having just beat the hell out of cancer, the 66-year-old Iommi, the Birmingham barnstormer, shredded through Into The Void, the cocaine anthem Snowblind, Age Of Reason (a new one) and the group’s classic 1970 namesake track as the collection of aging black band T-shirted rockers and 420 kids who were taking in the full extent of the day got louder with each successive number.
“I can’t f—-n’ hear you!” Osbourne prodded the crowd into high decibel hysteria. “I still can’t hear you! Let me see those f—n’ hands!”
If the mighty Sabbath were going to do this reunification thing, they were going to pull out all the stops and do it right. A nifty stage production of eerie lighting, lazers, smoke and a massive video screen featuring live shots and assorted military, religious and horror imagery served as a back drop to the glorious thunder of N.I.B., Fairies Wear Boots, Rat Salad and the landmark metal-head anthem, Iron Man. Yeah, as good as you’re imagining.
God Is Dead? from last year’s No. 1 Grammy Award-winning 13 album, Dirty Women and the fabulous wall of sludge on Children Of The Grave ended the main set with a flurry.
A snippet of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath into the only logical encore, Paranoid, ended 420 with the final thunderous cannon shot of the evening as the crowd exited ears ringing, exhausted and thoroughly satisfied. In the end, it amounted to an historic evening that likely won’t ever happen here again.
Photo courtesy of Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency
Article By Gerry Krochak,Calgary Sun