Their supreme metal gods were in town for the last time ever. 'The End' had begun.
Opening the night's bill were Californian rock/ blues band, Rival Sons. With a tightly-timed sound lead by a vocalist fit for the main stage of any rock or blues festival, Rival Sons surprised the restless audience with a solid set.
More often than not support bands in large areas are left drowned out by the sheer size of the venue and lack of facilitated audio equipment. But Rival Sons overcame that quite quickly and extended their rhythmic music into the already packed and sold-out arena, like a hot knife through butter. Not having heard them before I was surprised by Rival Sons. So much so that no matter how much I wanted to look down at my phone to check the latest banter on Facebook, I was drawn back toward the stage by Jay Buchanan's hard-arse vocals or a wicked little guitar lick; even the theatrics by the keyboardist who sported a beard worthy of a ZZ Top look-alike competition.
Receiving the warm acknowledgment they deserved, one by one in single file, the Rival Sons vacated the gargantuan stage, making way for the one, the only, the mighty Black Sabbath. As good as they were, I was left with a slightly bitter complaint. Black Sabbath was always going to sell-out the arena, so why bring a US band down with them?
Rival Sons are not a ticket selling draw-card. There are plenty of Australian acts that could have pulled off a top-notch opening performance as well. For example Dead City Ruins or Kings Of The North. Having said that, I am looking forward to seeing Rival Sons perform at the Cherry Bar on Thursday night. So, take the 'complaint' as you will.
1970 was the year Black Sabbath started producing what was then the new sound of heavy metal. A deeper, richer, darker form of rock and blues everyone else was playing at the time. Guitarist Tony Iommi's riffs became Sabbath's calling card and their oeuvre. Iommi was inarguably the first embrace the los diablos en musica, the only chord expelled from the church: the b5 interval (for you guitar buffs).
This chunky dissonance, also known as the 'devil's interval', aptly opened the night as did it the first song of their first album, 'Black Sabbath'. No other song could share such a place. As it stuck, so did the beginning of 'The End'. From then on nothing was out of place. Treated to all the best from the early album masterpieces such as 'Paranoid', 'Masters Of Reality', 'Black Sabbath' and even a song from 'Technical Ecstasy', 'Evil Woman'.
Besides the epic 'War Pigs' and the encore 'Paranoid', the song which produced the most impact and crowd participation was the indomitable 'Children Of The Grave'. While drummer Tommy Clufetos proved himself with a killer solo during 'Rat Salad'. He continued to enthral alongside the thundering tone of founding bassist Geezer Butler in an exciting battle of metallic sounds: the defining moment of the night.
During 'N.I.B' Iommi casually, as he does in a defined, dignified way, walked to the end of his speaker stack, closest to the drummer. Ozzy turned to his left to look at his long-time friend and suddenly stopped when he couldn't see the guitarist in view. Adjusting his stance he realised Tony was standing behind him: both leaned in laughing while their affinity for the other beamed through each other's eyes. A joyous moment to devour. It was a show at Rod Laver Arena I will never forget.
Why can Black Sabbath hold the attention of such a big crowd, leaving each loyal punter begging for more after all these years? 67-year-old Ozzy Osborne, that's how. Ozzy may be suffering chronic delirium tremens, but he still gives it his all at every performance: he hands his heart to you. As does Geezer, Iommi and even the newest guy, Tommy. Together, as a unit, they play to communicate a feeling and a message beyond the carrier waves of perfectly played sounds. It's driven by their passion, their conviction, every time even at the end of the career.
The show ended with Ozzy kindly stating "you are very special people". He then walked off with his comrades, hunched over as if the weight of the world lay upon him, for the last time in Melbourne, Australia. The End.
Fairies Wear Boots
Into The Void
Behind The Wall Of Sleep
Hand Of Doom
Rat Salad (with eight-minute drum solo)
Children Of The Grave