Freezing temperatures couldn’t keep things from heating up in Chicago Friday night as Black Sabbath brought show 2 of their final tour, appropriately titled “The End”, to the United Center. The 23,000 Plus arena was sold out and filled to the brim by the time the metal masters took the stage. But first Long Beach, California rockers Rival Sons took the stage to get the crowd warmed up from the cold outside.
Rival Sons put on an impressive set by mixing their unique blend of vintage rock fuzz and modern rock melody. Powered by vocalist Jay Buchanan’s vocals it didn’t take long for them to show the crowd they deserved the honor of opening for the Godfathers of metal. Their set was precise and to the point. Their allotted time was about 40 minutes and they took advantage of every second of it whipping from one foot tapper to the next. I will be honest, I do not know any of their songs “yet”. So I can’t speak with knowledge about what they did and didn’t play. But I certainly will get to know them better now. Rival Sons set was powerful and raw. The reaction they received from the crowd was eye opening. But know its time for the main event. The Gods of metal: BLACK SABBATH
There is nothing like the feeling you get at a concert when your anticipation is high and those lights finally turn black signaling that the time is here. You know that any second now your idols are going to be taking the stage. In this case, taking that stage for the final time. After a couple minutes of intro video depicting an egg hatching to unleash a devilish monster born to destroy the world the arena went completely black with only the familiar sound of rain, thunder and bells taking your attention. Then with the white curtain still draped over the stage the deafening crash of Tony Iommi’s guitar cracked with the opening riff of the song “Black Sabbath“. As the band joined in with Tony the curtain finally fell only to be jerked back up to the top of the arena finally revealing our metal masters. Opening with the first song, from the first album, for the final tour was appropriate in my opinion. And the crowd jumped in immediately screaming with excitement and putting their fists in the air in approval. It was clear early that Black Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne was up to the challenge tonight as he busted thru the opening cut as if he was still in his twenties. Using “Black Sabbath” as the opening song really set the tone for was the rest of the night was about to bring.
Next the guys broke in to “Fairies Wear Boots”. “Fairies Wear Boots” is always a crowd favorite with it’s catchy melodies making it easy to sing along with. Now two songs in it was clear the band was fired up, feeling good and happy to be in Chicago celebrating forty plus years of metal mastery. A small surprise would be up next for long time fans as the guys pulled the deep cut “After Forever”. A song that hasn’t been in the set for over a decade. Many fans screamed in approval as Ozzy sang the song that tries to convince us all that “They should realize, before they criticize that God is the only way to love.” For me personally songs like “After Forever” are why I go to concerts. I love the tracks that only the die hard fans are familiar with. And you know these songs are played with the fans like you in mind. Once “After Forever” was finished the band broke into set list staples “Into The Void”, “Snowblind” and “War Pigs”. With “War Pigs” again showing that 67 year old Osbourne is still up to the challenge of holding his own vocally. The greatest part of “War Pigs” for me is always when the crowd sings along to the guitar riff of Tony Iommi. You know you are truly writing great material when the crowd wants to hum along to your guitar parts.
Up next the guys dove back into their first album, more than 40 years after its release with the jam “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”. After which drummer Tommy Clufetos keeps the beat going as Ozzy prompts the crowd “A… A… A..” along to the beat until Bass Legend Geezer Butler breaks into his familiar bass solo titled “Basically” whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Geezer is Rock N’ Rolls best kept secret. His right hand as he plays the bass is absolute art! His solo beautifully leads into the classic riff of “N.I.B.” Always a crowd favorite and forever the song that scared my parents when I was growing up.
For me this next tune was the highlight of the night. For the first time since 1978 “Hand Of Doom” was pulled out from the Paranoid album and performed live for the bands final tour. Opening with the demonic tone of Geezers bass and followed up by the soft vocals of Ozzy asking “Whatcha gonna do? Times caught up with you. Now you wait your turn. You know theres no return.” The song warns us about the dangers of drug use. It was clear that fans in attendance knew they were witnessing something special. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Ozzy managed to sing the high parts when the tune kicked in full force. Displaying that despite their age, Black Sabbath are still the kings of Metal. After “Hand Of Doom” the guys went into the instrumental “Rat Salad” before breaking into Tommy Clufetos’s drum solo. A really nice moment occurred during “Rat Salad” as the jumbo-tron on the back of the stage showed footage of the guys in their youth. But specifically it showed original drummer Bill Ward who is no longer with the band. “Rat Salad” is a drum heavy instrumental and I thought including Bill in some way there was a classy move. Tommy’s drum solo was much shorter than on past tours lasting maybe 3 minutes before the boys came back out and into the iconic “Iron Man”. Up next was”God Is Dead?” However, Sadly “God Is Dead?” was the one time throughout the night that you kind of remembered the age of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. He struggled a bit with this one. But at this point in their careers it isn’t about hitting perfect notes. it’s about getting up there and giving it everything you have. Something Ozzy has always done on any stage.
“Under The Sun / Everyday Comes And Goes” was next. A deep cut from the Vol. 4 album and one of my favorite Sabbath songs. “Under The Sun” is a track that was played for the first time in thirty plus years on the last tour. But this tour they decided to add something special to it as they finished it up with the “Everyday Comes And Goes” section of the song featuring a classic Tony Iommi solo like only he can deliver. I was very pleased when Tony broke into the riff leading up to his solo. I wasn’t expecting the last section to be played at all. Up next the guys broke into “Dirty Women” after which you could tell the night was starting to wind down. Then Ozzy ask “Do you want one more?” Of course everyone wants one more. Actually we would like 2 more, maybe 3 or 4. After thanking the crowd for 40 plus yours of loyalty and standing by them Tony Iommi broke into their most popular song “Paranoid”. with Geezer holding down the bass lines. And Tommy Clufetos pumping up the drums. Ozzy sang those memorable lines that we all know and love so well, “Finished with my woman cause she couldn’t help me with me mind.” I needed someone to help me with my mind as it was starting to sink in that this might very well be the last time I will ever get to see my heroes live on stage. Confetti fell from the rafters and the celebration for the greatest metal band of all time was coming to an end. And the one question on my mind was: “The final tour and they didn’t play Children Of The Grave”.
As the guys walked off stage Ozzy stopped and asked “Do you wanna hear one more song”, I was relieved and started to realize that they might play “Children Of The Grave” after all. The guys put their guitars back on and Tommy walked back to the drum kit as the lights fell dark again. Then the haunting tone of Iommi’s guitar broke thru the black with the opening riff to “Childern Of The Grave” capping off a great night of celebration for the greatest band of all time as fire shot from the back of the stage for virtually the entire song. Black Sabbath’s set was solid, filled with both set list staples that they have to play every night and deep cuts that most fans have never seen them play before. The celebration is on for the Rock Gods with a bigger production than tours they have had in the past. Catch them when they come to your city. It will be your last opportunity and you don’t wanna miss it.
Do you have any amazing stories about seeing Black Sabbath live? Comment and let us know.