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Gig Review: Black Sabbath + Rival Sons, Sydney, 23 April 2016

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Black Sabbath + Rival Sons
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
23 April 2016
Review by Cameron Cooper

Band’s call it quits all the time. Remember when Judas Priest said they were going to hang it up after The Epitaph World Tour, only to drop another album and head out again soon after? Hell, Ozzy said back in the 90s he was done. Fact is, you can’t blame a guy for being sceptical when a band says they are retiring, but there was something eerily ‘final’ about Black Sabbath’s performance that seemed to signal the end.

Warming-up the crowd for the band’s doom-laden swansong were Californian rock n’ rollers Rival Sons. Unapologetically fun, the band were pure vintage fuzz, with wailin’ vocals giving way to a jammy, melodic crunch. Although vocalist Jay Buchann and six-stringer Scott Holiday knew how to work a stage, it was touring keyboardist Todd Ögren-Brooks that managed to steal the show, beating the rock out of his keys as if he had a grudge. It’s hard to imagine sandwiching Five Finger Death Punch between these guys and Sabbath, as the band’s soulful vibes – complete with the spine-tingling ballad Where I’ve Been – made for a perfect segue into the opening hum of Sabbath, who kicked things off with a (kinda cheesy, kinda cool) video, followed by the eternally earth-shattering chords of Black Sabbath.

The majority of the band’s set stemmed from earlier work, aside from the return of Dirty Woman to the set. Touring drummer Tommy Clufetos brought a huge amount of energy and power to the show, so it is a wonder why the band abstained from playing anything off Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage. Giving the three original members a break part-way through, Clufetos roused the crowd with an extended, five-part drum solo. While the solo itself was good, it was a bit long in the tooth – considering the crowd was there to see the original members kick it one last time.

Speaking of which, the performance belted out of Ozzy, Tony and Geezer couldn’t have been better: Ozzy is still the child-like larrikin he has always been, bounding across stage (well, as close to bounding as a 67-year-old is going to get) while screaming, droning and chanting the tunes that crafted an entire genre of music. Geezer’s trademark, mid-heavy tone pounded from the speakers as Iommi – in much better health than last we saw him – never missed a lick, lead or groove.

Watching Sabbath on such a massive stage with a seemingly endless sea of heads reminds you of the brilliant simplicity of the band: the flashy on screen visuals are barely noticed as all eyes are drawn to a band that to this day use very little other than their hands, voice and maybe a fuzz pedal here and there. The riffs are historically succinct, the lyrics memorably straight-forward. But it is from these aging banshees of Birmingham that the entire world of heavy metal and stoner rock blossomed.

As the last notes of Paranoid rung out across the crowd and the band took their final bow, a bittersweet energy washed over the room. ‘THE END’ beamed on the giant screens behind the stage, with the lights going up on the grandfathers of heavy metal for the last time. Thank you, Black Sabbath.

Photo by Ross Helfin.

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