Black Sabbath At Barclay Center, Monday, March 31st, 2014, reviewed
Many years ago, some manager fell asleep at the wheel and hired a biller with serious mental problems. The tall, overweight fellow didn’t have cerebral palsy but shook uncontrollably, swore every othe word and was an all round many faceted weirdo of the first order.
Eventually they fired him but I have this indelible image of him standing straight outside my office and banging his head on the wall, then doubling back to his desk with small mincing, old man steps before coming back outside my office and banging his head again.
He was the splitting image of Ozzy Osborne at Barclay Center Monday night.
Where once the Birmingham band were a scary proposition, dancing with the devil and powering themselves forward as antichrists and headbangers of the first nth power that even had Lester Bangs, who knew a con when he saw one, in awe of their passion, that is no longer the case. But with one of the great one two shots around, Guitarist Tommy Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, plus new drummer Tony Clufetos, the band hammered home every Black Sabbath masterpiece from “War Pigs” through “God Is Dead” with a dynamite “Black Sabbath” somewhere during the final third. All building to “Ironman” before ebbing its way to “Paranoid”.
The stage was slight but the sound was loud and the opening band were excellent and took full advantage of it. As did Ozzy and friends though they couldn’t think too much what to do with the vast amount of nothingness in some sort of Sartre blank roll of space on the stage. Ozzy sure couldn’t fill it but… this wasn’t the Ozzy I had been reading about all year. This is by Neil McCormick of the Telegraph: “His singing is atrocious, mostly flat and with terrible timing, occasionally coming into sync with the band when chorus effects are liberally ladled onto his voice.”
Well, he wasn’t great, and he was pretty damn iffy on “Ironman” but he had his moments. Certainly the first half hour was spunky enough plus, I mean, for a 65 year old he managed to perform a straight ahead, heads down no nonsense nostalgia set for middle aged graying money drunk on beer and basking in old glories audience.
Certainly, people weren’t giving him the night off. Propped up by a propulsive 33 year old drummer and a two pronged very large and loud riff machine, Ozzy stood his ground. Plus, do you think Iommi and Geezer could fill Barclay’s by themselves? Now, dya think Ozzy could?
Ozzy has been around so long now, he has gotten past the repeating yourself as farce portion of his career and is neck deep into the repeating yourself as miracle portion of it. With nothing left but the will to rock, with a voice scraping bottom and a visage more likely for Bellevue than Barclay, with nothing but the will for power (and money of course), Osborne has managed to continue his career.
The two hour set didn’t drift and it didn’t fall apart and if Ozzy is such a drain on the band, why was the worst song, “Rat Salad” –an instrumental with a very long and boring drum solo and no Ozzy at all?
Ozzy might no longer have charisma but you don’t need charisma when you have fame, do you? Fame is a form of charisma and more than any other heavy metal star, Ozzy cashed in on his fame and became a reality. He is like the ultimate crossover act and he was feted as much and when he comes on stage part of what you are paying your money for is this bewildering fellow.
As such, Ozzy isn’t Charlie Sheen. Now the rust is off, he can actually deliver to a 20K seater. He might not be the man he was but he is more than the man he could be and while absoutely the band is carrying him, that still doesn’t mean they can do it without him.
Black Sabbath have become the Pogues of heavy metal. Ozzy is a Shane like character who is so important that sniveling about it is besides the point. With every reason in the world to really suck, Black Sabbath performed a straight ahead metal set for the believers.