There are concerts that are easily forgotten and concerts to be remembered for life. But there are also these other concerts that are more than just a band coming on stage and playing its music with fans having a good time watching it. There are concerts that are a statement, a cultural event in itself that its significance escapes the borders of the time and space of its taking place.
Almost 50 years ago, a group of old schoolmates from Aston, a suburb of the gloomy industrial British city of Birmingham, formed a group that would soon change the course of rock music. Although you can’t really say there was a Bing Bang in any kind of music, Black Sabbath is the closest to that as far as heavy music is concerned. In a career that spanned in 5 full decades they managed to define all things heavy more than anyone else in terms of sound, form and style, they fought and broke up and got back together and changed line ups numerous times until they decided it was time for the circle to be completed with a last small European tour appropriately called “The End” that would finish in their hometown, the place where it all started. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the first of the two nights they would play there, fully aware of the historical significance of that show and hoping that in thirty or forty years there will be still young people enchanted by the power of the riff willing to listen to heavy metal stories from an old fart about the ones who started everything.
My flight from Berlin to Birmingham had 29 people, 7 wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt, that’s a good proportion I think. The airport and the train station there had an even better one. Not to mention the one in closest pub to the venue where we tasted the not so tasty English cuisine. Genting Arena is a huge metallic construction of around 16.000 people capacity with a nice path leading to it passing by a small lake and that was chosen to be Black Sabbath’s last stand, so since early in the day it was flooded from dedicated fans who wanted to be as close to the band as they could.
Unfortunately, the huge arena was divided by the money squeezing golden circle, which restricted us in a significant distance from the first rows, but we got there early enough to find a nice spot and waited patiently. The opening act, Rival Sons, played their set thanking Sabbath almost after every song, apparently acknowledging the opportunity they were given to participate in the masters’ last tour. The ever gentlemen English rock crowd cheered for them, but besides some nodding it was apparent that for the vast majority of them it was more of a time of introspection and preparation for what would follow.
The curtain was having a dim purple light on it and the logo of the band was being projected. Soon the lights went out and the intro video with a dragon being born and destroying the world in fire ended with the logo of the band burning while a very familiar, but always uncanny sound of rain and bells could be heard. The curtain was lifted in a magical way and the band appeared with their stage set on fire from side to side, even the gong of the drum kit, which was rather spectacular. “Black Sabbath” and it all began. “What is that that stands before me….” and “In beginning was the Word…” What followed was an hour and forty five minutes of a dive in the bands’s first seven records and consequently the whole history of hard rock and heavy metal filled with flashbacks, memories of wild youth and anything that can be connected with the love for music and what it offers to the wellness of a human being. And everyone was there in this gathering behind the wall of sleep. There were fairies wearing their boots somewhere under the sun, war pigs were crawling on their knees, Lucifer himself came from into the void asking us to take his hand, there were dirty women not to mess around with talking with people blind from cocaine and an iron man ready to take his revenge while doom was stretching his hand towards us till after forever. Towards the end, children rose from their grave and started marching having revolution in their minds. And of course this sweet paranoia that we feel only when it is gets dark on Sabbath.
Unfortunately, the only one who was missing was an original member of the band, Bill Ward, for reasons that not even Iommy knows as he recently stated. Let us consider him as a fallen brother in this last incarnation of the band, only for the loss to be able to be digested. And although his substitute, Tommy Clufetos, tried his best and even performed a great drum solo after “Rat Salad”, the innate groove of the man who first performed those songs was gravely missed that night.
But the magnificence of the other members was glowing. There was Adam Wakeman on the side of the stage adding keyboard layers, a duty that must have felt even heavier since Geoff Nichols death a few days before. Ozzy, with his voice in a great condition given his age and length of the set, was in a very good mood, feeling connected to the crowd –as soon as he appeared onstage and faced the crowd he said “We love you all”-, making funny comments between the songs like the one about cocaine before “Snowblind”, or that they play the old songs because nobody gives a fuck about the new album. Geezer was shaking the ground with his flawless sound and playing, being overtly energetic and more expressive than usual. Tonny Iommi, the heavy metal archbishop with his black cape and his medieval mustache and general outlook was yielding all his old guitars worn off from countless hours of riffing and was sending through them heavy metal vibes to be heard across the globe for one last time by stressing every riff and giving his all in every solo. The way he ended “Dirty Women” was beyond words to describe. It was a highly emotional concert without any overreaction, just Ozzy saying at the end that it was a very special moment for the band. And it was even more emotional for the thousands of fans from all over the world that were there, I saw countless people in their 60’s or even 70’s, many were walking with the aid of a club, gladly mingling with middle aged and youngsters, all together, all happy, all experiencing the moment that was condensing thousand different personal Black Sabbath stories into one collective memory.
Black Sabbath may have ended as an entity in a graceful way, but their music will echo in the minds of millions for years to come. And while the death of the forefather is a sad event, after the necessary grief, we should celebrate the thousand bands that glorify their legacy and will continue doing what Black Sabbath once upon a time started on that same ground that they chose to write the final chapter of their beautiful story.
- Black Sabbath
- Fairies Wear Boots
- Under The Sun/Everyday Comes and Goes
- After Forever
- Into The Void
- War Pigs
- Behind The Wall Of Sleep
- Hand Of Doom
- Supernaut/Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Megalomania (instrumental medley)
- Rat Salad (drum solo)
- Iron Man
- Dirty Women
- Children Of The Grave