Black Sabbath

PHOTO BY ROSS HALFIN

PHOTO BY ROSS HALFIN

By John Raptis

Artist: Black Sabbath

Date / Venue: Tuesday April 19th, 2016 - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia

It has been quite an adventure to get to this point of reviewing Black Sabbath’s Melbourne show for what is dubbed ‘The End’ world tour. 

In all honesty, I didn’t think that my first assignment for Libel would come in the form of a concert review. I am a photographer for heaven’s (and hell’s) sake and for months and months we had been planning for me to photograph this show. 

The story goes that management had decreed that there would be no photographic coverage of the Australian and New Zealand leg of the tour and I and several of my photography colleagues where left to ponder the what if’s and could have been’s instead.

But we here at Libel don’t give up too easily and I was sent back to confront Messieurs Osbourne, Iommi and Butler sans camera but with pen in tow! Yes, yes, the pen is mightier than the sword but for me the real challenge was is it mightier than the camera? Could I capture the magic and aura that is Black Sabbath not via pictures - but with words?

That was my mission. And you can bet your fave slab of classic era Black Sabbath vinyl that I was going to take it!

There was an incredible vibe arriving to Rod Laver Arena that permeated the air long before Sabbath took to the stage. And the unseasonably warm Melbourne weather was enhanced with the overwhelming smell of weed which gave everything a true seventies vibe. I don’t think I have smelt air this thick since the last time I was in Lamb Of God’s dressing room!

And then the beginning of the end was nigh.

Seeing a band of Black Sabbath’s calibre is not like being at any old gig. This is something beyond special and when one sees the legendary Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi take the stage, there is a feeling of awe and deep respect that completely takes you over.

This is a band who began in the 60’s. A band who created, defined, moulded a genre of music that has grown and lasted over decades. Their influence is astounding and to see them plough through a set featuring some of their biggest songs is truly a sight to behold.

Throughout the duration of the entire set I was absolutely stunned and perplexed watching and listening to Iommi’s guitar work. Seamless playing. Never an off note. Not-even-one! Blistering lead breaks and riffs that are not only out of this world, but classical in their nature, delivery and purpose. The rousing reception afforded to him when Ozzy introduces the band was enough to send chills up the spine.

Never in all my gig attending years have I seen the floor section of Rod Laver Arena so tightly packed. There was hardly a spare bit of space to be seen and watching that electric throng of people move in unison to the music was a sight I will take to the grave.

Iommi lays his guitars over one the finest rhythm sections on the circuit today. Geezer Butler’s tireless fingers picked and plucked over his bass strings laying a foundation for the rest of the band to do their thing.

Yes, it would have been incredible to see original drummer Bill Ward onstage with the band again, but as romantic as that notion is there is no chance in hell he could much the percussive brilliance of drummer Tommy Clufetos who not only resembles a young Bill Ward crossed with John Bonham, but plays with their combined ability in their heyday! Clufetos is one of the finest drummers I have ever witnessed in my life and a very, very smart choice by Sabbath to occupy the drumstool.

The stage-set was as simple as I have seen on the Rod Laver Stage. A stripped back version of what the band toured with in 2013 but Sabbath are a band who rely on very little gimmicks and paraphernalia but rely on their impressive set-list and legendary status to give the concert goer more than enough.

I think it is safe to say that most of us are probably sick and tired of the constant barrage of ‘farewell’ tours we have had to endure from some of the biggest bands in the world where 12 months later, said band is back on the road again. This time however, with the members of Black Sabbath hitting an age where most (if not all) the common folk are retired - it feels genuine and real. This is really ‘The End’ and I am forever grateful for the impact, influence and all round entertainment this band has provided to yours truly and the rest of the world.

Black Sabbath, thank you. Thank you!

Setlist:

01: Black Sabbath        
02: Fairies Wear Boots
03: After Forever
04: Snowblind
05: Into the Void
06: War Pigs
07: Behind the Wall of Sleep (with 'Wasp' intro) 
08: N.I.B. (with 'Bassically' intro) 
09: Hand of Doom
10: Rat Salad (with drum solo) 
11: Iron Man
12: Dirty Women
13: Children of the Grave

Encore:
14: Paranoid