Black Sabbath At Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
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By Jamie Harvey
A demented cackle and an air raid siren filled the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on Sept. 3 as those in the sold-out crowd stopped their conversations mid-sentence and focused their attention on the backlit figures behind the curtain. The intro to Black Sabbath's iconic "War Pigs" began and before the curtain lifted the crowd went wild for Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne — musicians who, more than 40 years ago, changed (and frightened) the world.
As "Into The Void" began and I focused on Iommi's guitar work, I became dumbfounded when I realized the sound was coming from right in front of me and not my record player. As they played "Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes," I looked around the arena and saw fans who had likely experienced Black Sabbath "back in the day"; fans who, like me, learned about them further down the line; and musicians who probably cut their teeth learning Sabbath riffs.
During "Snowblind," a song harkening back to the band's crazier days, Osbourne tossed buckets of water onto fans, who were all baking in the 90-degree heat. His antics were in full force as he gestured double peace signs, spoke about how crazy he is and whistled "cuckoo!" — to which the crowd echoed back.
Hearing "Black Sabbath" live will go down as one of my top concert moments ever. I could hear the camera shutter click in my mind, cementing to memory just as those doom-laden chords hit my ears. No matter how many times I've watched "The Osbournes" and laughed, the evil spirit of "Black Sabbath," with its scary tritone interval, never goes away. Osbourne's aged voice and demented stare made the song even more ominous on this night.
Butler brought the funky bass to begin "N.I.B." as the crowd grooved. "Fairies Wear Boots" drew attention to drummer Tommy Clufetos, who, despite having to fill the big shoes of Bill Ward, is a phenomenal drummer and one I became a fan of long ago through his work with Rob Zombie. A lengthy, impressive drum solo followed "Rat Salad."
Then came the ubiquitous GRAMMY-winning hit "Iron Man" — a song I've heard so many times in my life, but it took on a whole new life on this night. "God Is Dead?" — my favorite track from their new album, 13 — was great to hear live and perfectly synched into the mood of their older material.
"Dirty Women," from 1976's Technical Ecstasy, was accompanied by some rather titillating burlesque-type footage of classic models such as Bettie Page. Osbourne introduced the song with the only discernible word being "groupie." The main set closed with "Children Of The Grave."
The crowd didn't budge as everyone seemed to have a wish list of songs they still wanted to hear from Sabbath's deep catalog. Mine were "Sweet Leaf," "Spiral Architect" and "After Forever." When the godfathers of heavy metal returned, they opened with the delicious riff intro to "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," which led into the iconic "Paranoid."
As the smiling proud members of Black Sabbath took center stage for a bow at the end of the show, I cherished the moment of seeing the band who started what would influence so much of the music on my iPod, perhaps for the last time.
"Into The Void"
"Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes"
"Age Of Reason"
"Behind The Wall Of Sleep"
"End Of The Beginning"
"Fairies Wear Boots"
"God Is Dead?"
"Children Of The Grave"
"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" (intro)
(Jamie Harvey lives in Los Angeles and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has attended and written about more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures at www.hardrockchick.com.)