Black Sabbath - O2 Dome, London (UK) - 29 January 2017
Opening with the first track from their very first album in some kind of unholy trinity, Black Sabbath play 'Black Sabbath' from 'Black Sabbath', setting the tone for a Doom Metal-laden evening, reminding us how seminal their first album was and how relevant it still is to the heavier direction popular Metal has taken today. Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne are all looking well despite the years and the main impression is how little has changed since the beginning (even the electronic background is full of sixties psychedelia) and you were wondering how can this be 'The End'. There is indeed no evidence of sadness on stage as if the band cannot really believe it themselves. This is indeed the right attitude as this is, more than anything else, a celebration of what the band has achieved. The purple balloons set free before the encore underline this. This is a legacy, not a funeral.
As if cognisant that it was their early work that changed the world of Heavy Metal and music the show is dominated with tracks from the first two albums which provide the material for over half the entire set. There is nothing from the Dio years, which would, let's face it, be a whole other tribute and celebration. With almost the entire Osbourne clan (Sharon, Jack, Kelly and Pearl) looking on, tonight is rightly about the Osbourne chapter of Sabbath. Osbourne is still looking like a very British demon, one that doesn't believe his own hype, but just gets on and does the job, even down to the mock scariness/silliness, ghoul hands with black polish aloft on cue. Despite somehow managing to sing off key in 'Iron Man', he is sounding, in general, otherwise clear, sharp and spot on.
The crowd at the front is "gold circle" meaning that affluent older fans are on the barrier, but the enigmatic front-man does his best to liven them up – "let's go crazy" and promising them an encore if they do. He, for one, has not lost his sense of fun and mischief with age. However, no one can distract from the focal point of Sabbath, the guitars. New technology may allow everyone in the stadium to see Iommi's finger tips used since his well-publicised industrial accident as an early musician, but the riffs are as monumental and show-stopping as they ever were. In 'Snowblind' we get the contrast of the blistering high pitched solo with the monster Doom riffs, once heard never forgotten, and so it is tonight.
The very high point of tonight? That still goes to the iconic and haunting verses of 'War Pigs' from Osbourne, just like on the record and just as apposite now as they ever were, all the time with the red lights on Iommi's face giving him a satanic appearance with his goatee. The Satanic themes of the work should be seen as they were intended, as a comment on the horror of man's evil to be avoided, to see it as support for anything satanic is to miss the point. I suspect everyone would have liked to have a full version of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath', not just an instrumental excerpt, but with so much on offer nobody could complain. The air is pregnant with the sense of the occasion and as the final riffs of 'Paranoid' finish, there is the unspoken consensus... we heard you... "the end". However, Bill Ward was not on stage, so we cannot help but believe there is unfinished business. We will forgive you if you come back again, don't go....