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Saturday 21 December 2013

View From The Altar Of Metal: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, Birmingham N.E.C

So as we gathered in our masses at our newly christened Sabbath-mobile my compatriots and I were all full of excitement for the night’s events. We piled into the van and were on our way to Birmingham with a metal jukebox playing throughout the trip, the banter was as usual interesting with thoughts turning to end of year lists and summing the year up in between the occasional drink and lots of crap food, except for Mr Hutchings homemade sandwiches.

After a long trip we arrived in the car park of the world’s most clinical arena, part airport, part hospital and completely isolated from humanity the N.E.C (or LG as it is now branded) is not the most awe inspiring place to go but ho hum a quick pre gig snack and pint and then into the mouth of hell we marched.

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats

For a band that have not been around for long (founded in 2009) to be opening for Black Sabbath in their home-town and indeed their whole UK tour must have been huge for them and many bands would have fallen apart with such pressure on them but Uncle Acid handled it well coming out with Mt. Abraxas moving straight into Mind Crawler. Their set was tight concise and full of heads down British psychedelic doom metal that the headliners helped invent, the excellent I'll Cut You Down came with the haunting dual vocals of guitarist Yotam Rubringer and lead guitarist K.R Starrs (Uncle Acid himself). The set blended into one big malaise of doom stoner metal perfect for those that partake in the sweet leaf and it was the perfect opening for Sabbath as it showed how long their influence has lasted. The band were amazing playing with gusto and guts and they honed their song craft with Poison Apple and Valley Of The Dolls. Coming in quick succession before the dusty Desert Ceremony ended their set. Not a band suited to arenas but still excellent, if there had been any other band next they would have got full marks however with the masters (of reality) next only silver was available. 9/10 

Black Sabbath

So with a short turn around the demon child shone through the curtain and we got the clarion call of "I Can't Fucking Hear You!!" from the Ozzman over the P.A and the crowd were uproarious with their cheers. So with a small wait the curtain dropped and the first classic chord of War Pigs rang out through the arena. The crowd sang every word of the song back with Sabbath as they cranked out the 6 minute plus song. With Ozzy inciting cheers claps and woah's all while jumping around like a mad man, the Iron man himself Iommi and Geezer butler were stoic and statuesque but brought every crushing classic riff as Tommy Clufetos imitated and at times excelled Bill Ward on the skins. The political rallying of War Pigs moved into the dirge-like Into The Void which distilled stoner metal into one song and was followed quickly by the awesome doom-laden Under The Sun. The band paced themselves with a wide ranging set list and seemed to be on top form. Iommi is still one of best guitarists around bringing the riffs and killer solos, Geezer also is a supreme bassist his fleet fingered playing most visible on the intro to N.I.B which is his masterpiece. The wild card as always is Ozzy who can be hit and miss however his voice was on top form throughout singing like a man a third of his age, and every occult, political, drug worshipping note audible with the crystal clear audio. Speaking of which Ozzy is still an excellent frontman making light of his recent problems and mentioning Christmas and the bands former love of the white stuff just before going into the driving Snowblind the newbie Age Of Reason before taking back to the very beginning with that one genre defining riff of Black Sabbath which went into the bluesy Behind The Wall Of Sleep. Back to number one album 13 with End Of The Beginning which blended in seamlessly with the rest of the Sabbath classics and moved into Fairies Wear Boots which was accompanied by a video that wouldn't have looked out of place in a German club with all of the leather and chains, and was just one of the many amazing visual feasts that accompanied the band throughout. The instrumental Rat Salad came next and gave Clufetos a chance to show off his mettle in an amazing drum solo (two words that don't really go together usually) this small break in proceedings was followed by the stone cold classic of Iron Man (Tony's showcase) which still sends chills down the spine with Ozzy's vocoder vocals and that riff which was quickly followed up by God Is Dead? and the final one two of Dirty Women (which I've never really liked as a song to be honest) but it led to the amazing Children Of The Grave which ended the main set with a mass jump along. The lights went out and all was dark as Ozzy started his chant of "one more song" which rang out as the band came back on to the stage to another rapturous applause. The first chords of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath filled the arena and then burst into their uber anthem Paranoid which left everyone on a high as they sang every word along with it. Seeing as they are all in their 60's (except for Clufetos) Black Sabbath are still about 50 times better than any band on the circuit it's both nostalgic and modern an ageless band playing the songs that made a genre in their hometown. I can think of no better way to end 2013!! Simply staggering! 10/10              

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