With the onset of February we are getting a little busier. 2nd, Protest The Hero, 6th Del Amitri, 9th Molly Hatchet, 14th Monster Magnet, 15th Dream Theater, 19th, Sons Of Icarus, 20th Skyclad, 25th Soulfly, 26th Cadillac Three

And maybe a couple more to be added.

Friday, 20 December 2013

BLACK SABBATH, Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats

It's 8.34pm at the NEC.

There's a curtain over the stage. All of a sudden there's a voice from behind it. It's part Brummie, part American: "Make some noise," says one Ozzy Osbourne. "Let me hear you" with that sirens start, the curtain falls and one of the most unmistakable riffs in the history of Heavy Metal, "War Pigs" kicks in. 

Black Sabbath are playing - literally given that Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler have houses in Solihull, where the NEC is situated - a home town show and that means that something special is in the air.

Rewind about an hour and it falls to Cambridge four piece Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats to open things up. Secretive and publicity shy they might be, but the band make a glorious racket.
Their albums, last years "Bloodlust" and 2013's "Mind Control" make them just about the perfect way to warm up a crowd for Sabbath. 

Firmly routed in 1970s psychedelica, with a touch of Thin Lizzy twin guitar melody chucked in for good measure. "Mind Crawler" and "I'll Cut You Down" are instantly great and Uncle Acid whip up a storm. You suspect that they would be better in a smaller venue, but this was a fine start.

In truth, though, it doesn't matter who supported tonight, because there are certain bands that don't need introduction, either by words or other artists, Black Sabbath is one of these. 

Let's cut to the chase. Sabbath essentially invented heavy metal. There isn't the time to debate that here, but as a broad hypothisis it will do for now. They also have a back catalogue to die for and they are here to play it tonight.

After the aforementioned "...Pigs" we are "Into The Void" and nearly every song that follows is a stone cold classic. If you need us to tell you that the likes of "Snowblind" and "Iron Man", "Fairies Wear Boots" and "Black Sabbath" itself - the latter played at almost funeral pace tonight -  are seminal tunes then you should go and watch X Factor immediately, but they just about all eclipsed by a quite wonderful "N.I.B" which is as stunning as it should be.

Happily this version of Sabbath cemented its reputation earlier this year with the "13" record, which reached number one ("we never thought would happen" says Ozzy) and there are a trio of songs played from it, the pick of these is arguably "The End Of The Begining" which sees the band getting a bit proggy on us and wailing about being a "robot ghost inside a human host". All three of these are worthy additions to the bands career.

The evening ends, around two wonderful hours after Black Sabbath began, with glitter bombs and black balloons abounding as the band thrashes it's way through "Paranoid" (what else?!) and you can only reflect that the four men here are geniuses (and that word is not used lightly either).

New drummer Tommy Cleuftos is clearly a fine sticksman, part John Bonham and part Captain Caveman, and his solo is far better than the usual.However with the greatest respect to Cleuftos, it is Messrs Iommi, Butler and Osbourne that we are here for. Geezer is as cool as ever on the bass, Iommi - who gets a rapturous reception - cements his reputation as one of the finest guitarists in the world, looking like an evil uncle casually tossing out some of the finest riffs known to man. And Ozzy? He's Ozzy. He totters round the stage, he asks us to get our hands in the air, he throws buckets of water over the front few rows and even better his voice holds up to the task. 

There has been plenty of conjecture about these shows, and indeed this reunion, regarding whether they should have taken place without Bill Ward on the drums.
The band were meant to be past their best, too ill to tour in the wake of Tony Iommi's ongoing battle with cancer, with a washed up basket case for a singer and a session drummer. There are those that won't listen to "13" because Ward isn't there. It's their loss. Sabbath matter and are as vital as ever to the music we love, and moreover, for two incredible hours tonight, they were just about the finest thing on the planet. 

"We love you all" as Ozzy might say .

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