Photos & Review: Black Sabbath at Madison Square Garden
In 1985 or 86, when I was 8 or 9 years old, I went to a fair at an old seminary nestled deep in the woods of my small Massachusetts town. Besides the usual fried dough and popcorn vendors and games of chance, there was also a vendor known as "The Tape Lady" who, as the name suggests, sold cassette tapes (not Scotch tape). This elderly woman inexplicably dealt in an unbelievable assortment of metal bootlegs and studio albums. Her kiosk was always swarmed with the town's headbangers and their big-haired, tight-jeaned old ladies. These were the dudes in tight acid wash jeans, wrestling sneakers, feathered mullets, peach fuzz mustaches, and denim jackets covered in heavy metal pins and patches. They smoked, they swore, they had combs in their back pockets, they had velcro Jack Daniels wallets, they drove Camaros and Monte Carlos. To a young, budding metalhead, they were a legion of Gods. It was at this seminary fair, in the company of these metalheads, that I made my first and most important purchase as a fledgling music consumer; I bought Black Sabbath's We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll. This cassette, which still resides in my collection, served as the bridge between me and what has turned out to be a lifelong passion for heavy metal and rock and roll.
Last night, February 25, was, for me, a celebration of this turning point in my life as Black Sabbath took their (final) tour "The End" to NYC's Madison Square Garden for their first of two shows there. Their set (setlist below) was wall to wall classics. The night wasn't about "deep tracks" or obscure "I can't believe they played that!" revelations; it was about celebrating an early catalog of classics that have basically made Sabbath the godfathers of all things metal forevermore. They absolutely crushed classics like "Fairies Wear Boots," "N.I.B." (complete with the classic wah-infused bass solo intro), "Paranoid," "Children of the Grave," "Black Sabbath," and more. I was amazed that 46 whopping years after the debut of the Black Sabbath album, bassist (and renowned vegan) Geezer Butler still has that signature crushing bass sound. To hear the opening bass solo for "N.I.B." in person at Madison Square Garden gave me goosebumps, and I don't say that for dramatic flair; it was a truly riveting and triumphant moment for my ears and me. This man is a bass God and the only unfortunate by-product of his legacy is the hundreds of inferior imitators who grace the stages of metal clubs all over the world. And what can you say about guitar God Tony Iommi that hasn't been said several hundred thousand times over the past several decades? Last night Iommi was in what I can only describe as pitch-perfect-classic-form. Every solo was sheer perfection, his tone was on the money, the heavy notes shook your soul. He is regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time, and it's not because he shreds or plays insane 90-notes-per-second riffs; it's about his taste and his elegance. To see and hear him live for the first (and maybe last) time last night was an absolute thrill.
And then there's 67-year old frontman, Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. There are always rumblings all over the internet that Ozzy has lost his touch. That his vocals are inarticulate and barely registering at the notes he needs to be hitting. And I feel like some people get some sort of orgasmic joy out of criticizing this man. For me, he is irreproachable and that any metalhead caught slagging this man are committing high treason. The performance Ozzy gave NYC last night was nearly flawless; even more remarkable given his age and the fact that for almost his entire life he's abused his body and mind with all manner of drugs and alcohol. Last night he gave an absolute 110% of himself and completely owned their 14-song set. Skulking around the stage, clapping his hands in time to the music, screaming at the crowd to show our fucking hands, banging his head, doing these little running-in-place dance moves, Ozzy was in classic Ozzy form. If he didn't live up to your expectations, you're a high-maintenance boor.
From top to tail, this band worked their asses off to us and it paid dividends. I had the time of my life. If this is their final tour, don't sit on the fence and wonder if it's worth ponying up the admittedly expensive ticket cost. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, this show was a masterpiece of epic proportions and it's worth working two jobs if you have to in order to snag a ticket. Check out all upcoming tour dates HERE.
—words by Klaus Kinksi
Black Sabbath @ MSG -- 2/25/16 Setlist
Fairies Wear Boots
Into the Void
Behind the Wall of Sleep
Hand of Doom
Children of the Grave