Thursday, February 18, 2016
Pardon the shitty photography, they don't allow proper cameras into the Sprint Center, and honestly as far back from the stage as I was there's a limited amount of damage I could do even with my D7000—especially with the glass I have. Maybe with a D3 or D4 and a 400mm on a monopod I'd have something going. And while I covet that gear, I wouldn't really want to drag it into a concert I've been looking forward to so long. I really just took a few iPhone shots because I could.
Black Sabbath has been a favorite of mine since I think age 12 or thereabouts. My first was Kiss, and I took a lot of grief from my peers in grade school for being a Kiss fan (me and Frank Blank were the whole South Park Elementary Kiss Army). Then Kiss came out with the universally wretched 'solo' albums and the almost as bad Dynasty, and I was fishing around for new music. Black Sabbath, both the Ozzy and Dio lineups, came into heavy rotation for me. Van Halen, Rush, Jimi Hendrix, too, but I listened to a ton of Sabbath (and then the Ozzy solo stuff when it came along). Eventually I branched out into punk, jazz, bluegrass, classical, I really have an eclectic palate.
But I'd never seen Black Sabbath live (for that matter, haven't been to a Kiss show, either). Kiss seems to be gearing toward a Ringling Brothers model of perpetual tours with eventually all four members being hired impersonators, but Sabbath seems to be taking a different approach. Rather than become their own tribute band, they say they're hanging it up after this one. The only O.G. member who's not on this tour is Bill Ward, who might not be healthy enough to even do it, and apparently has had a serious falling out with Ozzy.
And of course, Ozzy has claimed to be retiring more than once, I remember seeing posters for a 'Retirement Sucks Tour' about twenty years ago. So maybe they'll get to the 50 year mark and decide to have another go, but it seems like this might be the time they really mean it. It's got to be exhausting getting into character and putting on a show like this. And a show it was.
I'd gotten some birthday money right around the time The End tickets went on sale, and I decided not to settle for nosebleed seats. By the time you've talked yourself into $70 including Ticket Bastard fees, you might as well pop for $100 and sit downstairs. Floor tickets were too steep for me, but I was lower level at the opposite end from the stage, a very decent vantage point.
Maybe I look at these prices differently than other folks: I won't buy $40 t-shirts, I don't give a shit what band is on it. I don't really wear t-shirts much except as a base layer anyway, if I'm going to pop $40, that Hawaiian shirt had better rock. Likewise, I'm unwilling to buy enough $9 beers to get to the impulse threshold of buying a $30 CD. The End is only being sold at Sabbath dates on this tour, not online or in stores they said. Well, I say, not yet. These guys should be financially pretty well set at this point, but I see no evidence that once this tour is over they have any inclination to not sell more of their stuff. I'm betting I can pick that album up in a year or two for less than ten bucks. I could almost see the $100 autographed copies they were selling if I was enough of a nerd to want a signed CD. But I think for me, I'd need to meet the band in the process of getting the autographs for that to be worth it.
The opening band, Rival Sons, was solid. I'd say they were as logical a fit for a Sabbath opener as Deal's Gone Bad was for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. If you like the one, you'll probably like the other. And thank God they didn't do the asshole move of putting a 'merchandising' act as the opener. I hate that, when they actually inflict a band they know you'll hate on the theory that you'll go buy shirts while the opening act is playing.
I couldn't bring my Nikon in, but the Sprint Center was very gracious when it came to my CPAP. I'd spent the night before at a friend's house because I had a beer judging session right by my work, and it let me ride my bike and get a full nights sleep instead of choosing one or the other. Which meant I had the CPAP with me on the bike. And while I don't mind locking up outside Sprint, I didn't want to leave the CPAP bag on the rack for fear that a wino would take chance that it was something he could fence. A low risk in the Power & White District but not a zero chance. I'd been looking for a locker or a hotel that would let me use their baggage check nearby without getting a room, but when I called Sprint they said to just bring it and leave a few extra minutes for getting escorted to guest services.
Sure enough, when I got to security, he peaked in the bag briefly and asked another red blazer, 'You want to walk him up?' I was escorted quickly up to Guest Services, given a ticket for the bag and boom, done. So much better than when I was in junior high and went to Eric Clapton at Sandstone. My Dad dropped us off with lawn chairs that turned out not to be allowable. There were no cell phones in 1983, I was simply told to leave the chairs by the gate or stay out of the show I'd paid to see. Me and my date left my Dad's chairs and of course they were gone when we came out. Surely they had an office of some sort at Sandstone, they were just lazy and cost my Dad two pretty nice lawn chairs (and got me chewed on pretty good, too).
All in all, I think I got my hundred bucks worth. My voice is hoarse and raspy today and I still have a touch of tinnitus. I know, I should have worn ear plugs. I thought about it, I did, but I didn't end up doing it. I enjoy the loud, honestly. And I have enough accumulated hearing loss, I guess I figured one more concert unimpeded wasn't going to add that much. And I was comfortable until about Children of the Grave. I don't know if it's the amount of time I'd been subjected to the decibels or if the sound actually gets turned up as the concert builds to climax—maybe both—but that song was the point at which I had an inkling that I'd screwed up not plugging.
Oh, the Bill Ward absence. It was a subject of discussion among fans sitting near me. And I should say the crowd was a middle aged sausage-fest for the most part. There were wives and girlfriends. There was what I took to be a gay pair of 50-ish librarian women in the row in front of me. But a good 75% of the crowd was guys about my age with long hair in concert shirts. And the talk of why couldn't they patch the fence with Bill Ward came up a few times in my hearing.
I did a bit of reading (really the Sabbath and Bill Ward Wikipedia pages), and here's the thing: I already mentioned he might not have been physically capable of doing this tour. Sure the replacement player is a far better percussionist, he's fucking amazing. But he's not O.G. Black Sabbath. I would have preferred Bill Ward, not because I think he's better but because he's original to the band. Steve Vai is a more proficient guitarist than Tony Iommi, but if he'd been the guitarist on this tour I might have spent my $100 of birthday money on something else. I personally know people who play these instruments at an arguably higher level if you're just talking technical chops, but they're not Black Sabbath.
But in that reading, I came across a section on 'pranks' played on Bill Ward. Apparently Tony has set Bill on fire a couple of times. Bill has also been painted gold while drunk and passed out, resulting in a clogging of his pores that led to a seizure and hospitalization and could have easily killed him. You say prank, I say attempted murder, talk about your hostile work environments. Yet it's apparently money, trademarks and glory that actually motivate these guys to hire lawyers and fight stuff out.
Reminded me of Axl Rose and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame a few years back. Here the band was voted in, and I guess Axl won the legal battle for the band name, and the rest of the band won the rights to perform the songs they helped write or something like that. And right when it was about to happen, Axl sends a letter saying he doesn't want to be inducted. And he owns the name. As much as I love Appetite for Destruction as an album, I have no respect for the guy. As far as I can tell, he did that basically to screw the people who helped make him famous out of their place in the Hall just because he owns the name and could therefore do it. I don't know if that's the biggest dick move of all time but it's gotta be top three.
So here are four guys who apparently drink heavily (among other things), and three of the four are still able to work together after 46 years. Well played, Black Sabbath.