Ozzy Osbourne/Slash: Toyota Center, Houston, TX, 1/18/11

Say what you will about the prince of darkness, but the man knows how to put on a show, to get and most importantly KEEP the crowd involved. It is an experience. Yes, it may primarily be the same show he did last year but for the approximately two hours that Ozzy is on the stage, you sweat, you wave your hands, you clap, you sing, you hear the f-bomb a million times and you scream. It is the power that he has had over ordinary people who grew up with his music, starting with Black Sabbath and running all the way through his fertile birthing ground of amazing guitar players. And that power has never died in the forty plus years that he has been performing.

Opening with a hilarious short video featuring Ozzy interspersed into such pop culture hits as “Twilight”, “Avatar”, “Jersey Shore”, “The Hangover”, a Lady Gaga video and “Ironman”, you could feel this was going to be a good night. The air was just sparking with electricity amongst  what looked to be a sold out Ozzy worshiping crowd.

Slash and his amazingly tight band kicked off the show a bit early to get in a few more songs than normal; even earlier than he had tweeted so there were still empty seats when they kicked off their set with “Ghost” from his latest solo CD. Too bad those people missed a few songs. Slash, Myles Kennedy, Todd Kerns, Bobby Schneck and Brent Fitz literally would have stolen the show from anyone else but Ozzy.

Playing GNR and Velvet Revolver favorites as well as cuts from his solo endeavors, this is the band to beat as they tore through “Sucker Train Blues”, “Mr Brownstone”, “Sweet Child Of Mine” and “Paradise City” with a charged battery of pumping bass lines and Slash’s bluesy style of guitar momentum. His schizoid solo on “Nothing To Say” was unbelievably rapid-fire, despite his claiming they were going to play something “kind of mellow”.

Bassist Todd Kerns was a highlight of Slash’s set, just pummeling away with a vitality that is undoubtedly infectious on his band mates. Running around, singing at the top of his lungs even when away from his microphone, he reminds you somewhat of Anthrax’s Frank Bello. But Slash is Slash and no one overshadows the guitar god. From the slow burning blues solo on “By The Sword” to the spitfire of “Slither”, the man rocks it. Dressed in a white unbuttoned shirt, top hat and looking leaner than he did last year, he is the ignition switch and Ozzy did right by choosing him to open this leg of his tour.

I do have to say that Sharon Osbourne knows her stuff. She took a broken down lead singer and has continued to mold him to each decade, each generation. Without Sharon’s guiding force, Ozzy may very well have simply faded away after he was kicked out of Sabbath. Instead he has worshipers young and old, who buy the albums even though they may sometimes be below par, and fill arenas top to bottom with nary a worry over how much the tickets actually cost.

Sounding and looking better than he did a few short months ago at the Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, he seemed rejuvenated, refreshed and … happy. Of course, it didn’t take much to feel up this crowd. Ozzy had it easy, as they were more than ready for him and his gang-plank-walking crew of pirates. From bassist Blasko, fire-fingered guitarist Gus G, sonic booming Tommy Clufetos on drums, and keyboardist/guitarist Adam Wakeman, who happens to be the son of Yes keyboard extraordinaire Rick Wakeman, they were flying at warp speed.

Honoring the nearly full moon above, Ozzy kicked off with “Bark At The Moon” and freight-trained his way through such classics as “Mr Crowley”, “War Pigs”, “Ironman”, “Crazy Train” and “I Don’t Know” before screeching to a halt with “Paranoid”. A pleasant surprise mixed into the pretty much set-in-stone setlist was “Into The Void” from Masters of Reality, and “Fire In The Sky” from his 1988 solo release No Rest For The Wicked.

Ozzy gave his permission “for one night in your life to go fucking crazy” before “I Don’t Want To Change The World” and announced bluntly “the louder you get, the louder we get”. And it never seems loud enough for him. And he is always wanting more. Sitting still is not an option. Hurting feet, sweating armpits, hunger pangs and bathroom runs are no excuse to stop clapping, singing or pumping those devil horns. Up until “Rat Salad”, his energy never wavered.  And what is going to an Ozzy concert without getting soaked by the “big gun” or drenched in water that he flings over the first several rows. All part of the experience.

Slash Set List  Ghost, Sucker Train Blues, Mr Brownstone, Back From Cali, Rocket Queen, Nothing To Say, By The Sword, Nightrain, Sweet Child Of Mine, Slither, Paradise City.

Ozzy Set List Bark At The Moon, Let Me Hear You Scream, Mr Crowley, I Don’t Know, Fairies Wear Boots, Suicide Solution, Road To Nowhere, War Pigs, Fire In The Sky, Shot In The Dark, Rat Salad, Iron Man, Flying High Again, I Don’t Want To Change The World, Into The Void, Crazy Train. ENCORE: Mama I’m Coming Home, Paranoid.

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