August 15 2013 – Black Sabbath came, conquered and served notice last night that they belong to the upper pantheon of rock music along with groups such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Who. Welcome to our Black Sabbath Toronto concert review 2013 from a fan’s perspective.
Imagine 44 years ago in 1969 a psychic gave predictions for the band in the far out future of 2013:
- - Black Sabbath would have their first and only Billboard Number 1 album in 2013 – 43 years after their first album.
- - 21-year-old guitarist Tony Iommi would be 65 years old being treated for lymphoma cancer while on tour and for a few years in the 80′s and 90′s be the only guy left in Black Sabbath
- - 20-year-old singer Ozzy Osbourne would become rock’s most notorious frontman with a form of genetic Parkinson’s disease and whose genes were studied by scientists to discover how he is still alive after massive drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. He will pioneer a new type of TV shows called reality TV
- - Drummer Bill Ward will be dumped for whatever reason and a young gun would be brought in to tour with the band and another youngster to record an album
- - Bassist Geezer Butler would …. well just continue to be Geezer Butler uneventfully
- - Black Sabbath would deliver one of the best concerts of the decade for heavy metal and hard rock fans while they are (or will be very soon) officially senior citizens.
How insane would those predictions have been in 1969 but alas…. they are all true.
Toronto’s Air Canada Center (ACC) was 100% sold out and the buzz around the building began way before the doors opened. Black Sabbath was in town touring their excellent “13“ album (note: this album as of right now will be number 1 in T-Mak World’s Top 10 albums of 2013). The opening slot belonged to Andrew W.K. who was not playing any live music but doing a DJ set on top of a pedestal with his face etched on 3D on it. Songs included rock staples from bands such as Led Zeppelin, Motorhead and Quiet Riot. To me this was the lamest opening act I have ever seen at a rock show (and that includes Kool and The Gang opening up for Van Halen last year). I was stoked to hear live music not some guy trying to do a rock version of Pauly D.
For tonight’s show we wanted to purchase the best seats possible so we opted for the Live Nation VIP Package which for $275 got you a random seat between rows 6-15 (we ended up with row 10) and some swag including a water thermos, a poor quality blurry Sabbath T-Shirt, some pins, a shopping bag and a commemorative ticket. Note to Live Nation – I can’t speak for everyone that buys VIP Packages, but in our group we all agreed that the stuff was useless – we just wanted good seats up close.
With curtains closed and Ozzy’s silhouette eloquently urging the audience to “make some fucking noise” the familiar air raid sirens of War Pigs kicked off the night at 8:35 PM for a two hour show. The video of War Pigs can be seen here. Ozzy was a perfect ring leader and master of ceremonies tonight. Throughout the show he would pace from each side of the stage in his odd zombie walk urging people to react and party with the band. He largely got the reaction he wanted from the audience and many songs were emphasized with loud sing alongs. His usual bucket of water was there and he mostly used the water to dunk his own head in during the show and only threw one bucket of water into the audience (his solo shows get the audience much more wet than that). Most of the big outlets that reviewed the show all mention the same “Ozzy doesn’t have the range he used to” – I find that an odd observation to make because to me his voice was deep, rich, lush and “Black Sabbath”, comparing a 64 year old singer with his 21 year old self is ludicrous. Osbourne’s infectious energy spread like wildfire and left the audience fully entertained.
Iommi clad in his usual black on black attire was looking as fit as a fiddle and was all smiles throughout the night. He would often lock eyes with his madman front singer and smile and even shake his head in disbelief at times. Particularly entertaining was when Ozzy introduced the new song and Iommi rushes over and whispers in Ozzy’s ear correcting him – all the while with a big grin on his face. His playing was tight beyond belief and he really shined on his massive guitar solos particularly on Iron Man and Dirty Women. His black guitar strap had IOMMI written on it just in case anyone forgot who he was. In many ways Black Sabbath is Iommi’s band as he is the only member who has been there every day since day 1, and he should be proud of how incredible his band sounded this night. For a man who just dealt with cancer he surely understood the significance of what his life’s accomplishment has been as he often just looked up to the nosebleed sections and ever so slightly smiled in that direction. Osbourne even referenced to Iommi as the real Iron Man during the song of the same name.
Bassist Geezer Butler was also in fine form musically as the ever important bass sound drove the heavy and dark Sabbath sound. His fingers were flying and in many ways his contribution to the band is as significant as Osbourne and Iommi as he is the principal lyricist. Could Black Sabbath have ever been so ominous without lyrics such as “Out of the gloom I rise up from my tomb into impending doom, Now my body is my shrine“. Butler should be very proud of how his lyrics on 13 capture the spirit of the band – speaking of 13 only 3 songs from it were played “God Is Dead?“, “The End of The Beginning” and “Age of Reason“. This is one of the very few concerts where we wanted to hear even more of the new stuff (because it really is that good).
Ringer Tommy Clufetos was kick ass on the drums and was very deserving of the role. With the drama surrounding Bill Ward – (he claims he left because of contract disputes, Ozzy claims Ward was not good enough and out of shape to be part of Sabbath) the emphasis needed to be on the music and Clufetos was clearly enjoying the opportunity. His drum solo was insanely good and even silenced the drunk idiot beside me that kept yelling out “bring back Bill Ward” all night.
Osbourne and Iommi’s on stage presence were as opposite as can be and that is really the beauty of Sabbath. The inventors of Heavy Metal, their sound ranged from the mellow slow burn of songs like Black Sabbath to the frantic pace of songs like Children of The Grave. Black Sabbath’s most successful and famous album Paranoid was well represented with War Pigs, Fairies Wear Boots, Iron Man, a too brief Rat Salad, and the night’s only encore Paranoid. Old gems like Into The Void, Snowblind and Behind The Wall of Sleep were both dark and beautiful at the same time. This is how heavy metal should sound not the garbled mess that it has become with thrash metal.
The stage featured 3 screens (one big one in the center with two smaller one on the sides) that alternated between video of the musicians and background video that really fit in perfectly – Ferries Wear Boots really stood out for its video. Words can not properly describe the electric energy in the audience but video surely can. Check out this performance of N.I.B. from the show
This, the 10th show of the tour so far features the same setlist as the last 3 shows – the first 6 shows included the excellent “Methademic” in the set, but for some reason it seems to have now been removed. The setlist was derived from 1970-1976 and the 3 songs from 2013.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 – T-Mak World reviews are all based on personal opinion and taste. As such it should be clearly stated that Black Sabbath is one of our all time favorite groups and they did not let us down. Very memorable gig and truly mind blowing that senior citizens that have had a life riddled with substance abuse can deliver such a tight and smoothly executed concert. Aural nirvana! A clear candidate for T-Mak World’s Best Concert of 2013.