Yesterday I saw Black Sabbath life in concert. Veterans Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and new drummer Tommy Clufetos played in Sydney and I saw and heard and felt it. The three original band members have been playing Heavy Metal as long as there has been Heavy Metal, since before I was born. To say Black Sabbath is only a band would be like saying Ali was only a boxer, and Gandhi was only a politician. I thanked Black Sabbath in my doctoral thesis for inspiration. What an experience to finally see them life. This wasn’t a regular rock concert, it was somewhere between an extended metal family gathering and a happy satanic mass.
It started out real good before I even got to the concert venue. In Sydney-Lidcombe, where I had to switch trains to get to Olympic Park in Homebush bay where the guys were gonna rock. And I wasn’t the only one heading in exactly that direction. It was a whole train full of metalheads! Men with long hair and massive beards, with once in a while a dude with a shaven head as well. Big guys and lanky youth who nevertheless had the look in their eyes that they were heavy metal serious. Tattooed arms, shoulders and necks. Ear-rings of all sizes in some more unusual corners of ears. Everybody is in a good mood, but there is clearly a lot of testosterone in the air. A pretty similar Germanic crowd probably annihilated Varus’ Roman legions at the battle of the Teutoburg forest. My tribe.
Almost everyone was clad in black band t-shirts, hoodies or tank tops. Although heavy metal is still mainly loved by white guys, some chicks joined as well, some of them in fishnet stockings, with pink hair or purple eye-liner. And despite this somewhat limited demographic, I feel that the metal tribe is very inclusive. You are fat, old, an insecure teenager or nerd, or you have bad skin or facial hair that wouldn’t be tolerated in any corporate office? No problem, as long as you bang your head and point your fingers in the “sign of the horned beast”, you are one of us. And all of us made it into the concert venue by the time Black Sabbath started to play.
They kicked it off with the Sabbath classic “War Pigs”, inclusive a video show of the US invasion of Vietnam. Quite fitting, since a lot of the carcinogen Agent Orange which the US dropped on the peasants of southeast Asia (it’s not terrorism if we do it!) was produced in Homebush bay/Sydney, right where the Olympic Park was later built. The images on the video screen behind the band varied between the politically provocative (showing ex-pope Ratzinger next to forcefully retired US cult leader David Koresh) to the extremely trippy, with galaxies and geometrical patterns flying at the audience. I couldn’t get a floor ticket anymore, and was sitting high up in the stands quite a distance away from the stage, but for some reason I ended up close to the focus point of the light show. The strobe lights aimed straight-upwards and formed a moving light tunnel for the section I was in. Oh, that went well with Sabbath’s music to stare into that tunnel!
Musically, the guys were a force. Iommi and Butler’s guitar and bass playing was flawless, Clufetos’s 5 minute drum solo breathtaking. And I hope I’ll have Ozzy’s energy when I’m in my 60s. “It’s fun being crazy!” he proclaimed between songs. True.
They closed the show with “Paranoid”. At least half of the audience sang along every word. “My name is Lucifer, please take my hand”. Yes, we will!
So, don’t get me wrong, I will still analyze my gases before tech dives, and have the breaks of my car serviced. But if one of these highly venomous Australian animals should bite my ass and end my life, I won’t die with any regrets, now having seen Black Sabbath life.
Two more things: It’s the day after a metal concert, I didn’t use ear plugs, and I don’t have any further hearing damage, no tinnitus, nothing. It wasn’t particularly loud. Is that a consequence of some nanny-state health & safety rules? What has the world come to if heavy metal does not destroy your eardrums anymore?
Then, I was just coming off some kind of flu, and didn’t want to load my nervous system up with all the enhancers appropriate for such an occasion. A single beer, on top of the cold medicine and an empty stomach had to do. You’d think that this alone would get you a bit buzzed anyway? Wrong, for a big man who has been a beer drinker since his teenage years that’s simply not enough. But, something happened. In the afternoon I was still feeling pretty shitty-flu-ish. I woke up healthy and energetic the next day. A miracle healing! Ozzy healed me! Hail Ozzy!