Black Sabbath -Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Irvine, CA 8/28/13

The pioneers of metal, Black Sabbath, returned to Southern California for the first time in eight years, to perform one of the most anticipated live shows of the summer. The sold out concert featured three of the four original members. The band is in the middle of a global tour in support of their first studio album together since 1978. The album, “Black Sabbath 13”, may be one of the group’s strongest albums to date, augmented by the immense talents of legendary producer Rick Rubin and drum tracks by Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine). Original drummer Bill Ward bowed out of the reunion album and world tour over some sort of contractual disputes.

The last time the original band members played together in Southern California, including Ward who was ailing at the time, was during the 2005 OZZFEST tour. The band headlined an army of heavy metal favorites, at the massive outdoor venue in San Bernardino, now known as the San Manuel Amphitheater. That show, featuring one of England’s most enduring metal bands Iron Maiden, turned into a silly child like pouting match between the band’s lead singer, Bruce Dickinson and Sharon Osbourne (wife of Ozzy).

During Iron Maiden’s set, the power was cut no less than four times, to the massive PA system. In an attempt to parody Dickinson’s signature use of a giant English flag, a spindly legged man wearing speedos bolted onstage with a giant American flag. Finally, a group of teenagers sitting a few rows in front of my seventh row seats, dressed in black hoodies, pelted the band with eggs. Two of the culprits looked suspiciously like Ozzy’s children, Kelly and Jack. At the end of the set, Sharon came out onstage and proclaimed, that she “absolutely loved Iron Maiden”, but she thought Bruce Dickinson was a “prick”, which elicited mostly boos from the audience. Apparently Dickinson had ridiculed Ozzy for using a teleprompter during his performance and condemned The Osbournes reality television show, which was airing at the time. The fans in the crowd seemed stunned by the antics, and Black Sabbath‘s headline performance seemed to be lackluster at best, partly due to the fray.

On Wednesday night August, 28th, Sharon Osbourne was nowhere to be seen at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, in Irvine, Ca., and the only opening act for the sold out show was a DJ set by, guitar maven Andrew W.K. While the singer, guitarist is a fine performer with his live band, his 45 minute DJ set of metal classics was largely uninspiring. Most in the sold out crowd found their way to the plethora of alcohol stands outside the amphitheater, offering up everything from frozen margaritas and beer, to designer vodka and tequila labels.

By the time the lights began to flash behind the curtains, and the signature sirens of the classic “War Pigs” h began to wail, most of the crowd had to quickly stumble back to their seats in an inebriated stupor. As the curtains parted, a massive set was exposed, featuring a multi-screened video montage backdrop, massive rows of amplifiers and the band fully engaged in their first classic song of the night. Original bassist Geezer Butler, and guitarist Tony Iommi, laid down their signature rhythms, while veteran rocker Tommy Clufetos, took over drumming duties faithful to the original beat. Clufetos was best known for his years as Rob Zombie’s drummer and has played in Ozzy’s solo band of late. The relatively young drummer gave a shot of energy to the classic music  that Bill Ward had struggled to recreate in recent years.

Ozzy stumbled out onto the stage in his usual bewildered persona and instantly nailed the signature wail of early Sabbath that made him an icon. The band offered up a classic 15 song set list plus an extended drum solo. The songs featured a near perfect mix, including three songs from their ground breaking first album Black Sabbath, which the band recorded in a single day. For many of the early Sabbath fans this was some of their finest work, most closely resembling the English blues rock giants of their day like Cream and Led Zeppelin, but with their own unique metal element added. Their latest album may more closely resemble that blues infused album than any other work that they have done.


The band played five songs from their second album Paranoid, which many music critics regard as their seminal masterpiece, by which all successful metal bands since are held up to in comparison. The show included two songs from the bands third album, Masters of Reality and two from their fourth album Black Sabbath Vol. IV.  The set was rounded out with three of the best cuts from their new album. The show actually featured two more songs that were performed earlier on in the tour: “Methademic” and “Dirty Women”. “Methademic”, a new song that was only on the deluxe edition of the new album as a bonus track, was dropped from their set list in July and is probably the weakest of their new songs. “Dirty Women”, which came from their seventh album Technical Ecstacy, was a signature song in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when naughty girls in the audience would expose their breasts en masse.

At any event, these were minor omissions to the classic set list that the band did play in the near two hour ear shattering concert. Ozzy may have looked frail and apologized more than once for his vocal difficulties. A doctor seated next to me commented that he thought the aging singer might suffer from Parkinson’s disease because of his obsessive shaking. But those of us who have seen him perform for over four decades know it is part of his persona and his drug crazed past.. Iommi in particular played in classic commanding style. It was his serious bout with cancer last year that precipitated the reunion, but you wouldn’t know it from his fierce assault on his signature guitars. The band meshed perfectly playing some of their best songs in one of the longest set lists they have ever taken on tour. What more could you ask for from such a legendary band. Long live Black Sabbath.

Set List

1.    War Pigs
2.    Into the Void
3.    Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes
4.    Snowblind
5.    Age of Reason
6.    Black Sabbath
7.    Behind the Wall of Sleep
8.    N.I.B.
9.    End of the Beginning
10.    Fairies Wear Boots
11.    Rat Salad
12.    Iron Man
13.    God Is Dead?
14.    Children of the Grave
15.    Encore:
15.    Paranoid

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