By Steve Newton
Every Black Sabbath freak has his fave Sabbath album.
I for one have long trumpeted the supreme awesomeness of 1975’s Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath.
Others point to the band’s spooky self-titled debut of 1970 as its pinnacle achievement.
But most of the Sabbath fans I’ve encountered tend to regard Paranoid–also released in 1970–as the heavy-metal masters’ crowning glory. And judging from the setlist for last night’s Vancouver show, the band itself leans toward that opinion as well.
Of the 14 songs performed Monday night, no less than six were Paranoid tracks.
The show started with the title track of Black Sabbath–which Judas Priest’s Rob Halford has described as “the most evil song ever written“. Indeed, it is creepy as hell.
But what made it even more frightening for concertgoers was singer Ozzy Osbourne‘s questionable rendering of its ominous opening line: “What is this that stands before me?” Was this going to be another disastrous Ozzy performance–like that one back in 1996 at GM Place when he croaked out three songs before cancelling the show?
Fortunately, it was not. While Ozzy’s singing was by far the weakest link in the band’s vocals-guitar-bass-drums chain, it never got so excruciating that you were eyeing the exits. And as any longtime Sabbath follower knows, when it comes to seeing the group live, all you gotta do is focus on guitarist Tony Iommi‘s monumental riffs and you’ll be just fine.
And last night you could also do worse than lose yourself in the formidable rhythm section of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Tommy Clufetos. The latter skinbasher–a good 30 years younger than the other guys–was exceptional throughout. Even the most old-school Sabbath fanatic bitter about the band touring without original member Bill Ward would have to admit that Clufetos has all the power and finesse to make him a worthy replacement.
So with three extremely skilled metal musicians leading the way–and Ozzy doing his best on vocals–Sabbath plowed through earbusting classics like “War Pigs“, “Fairies Wear Boots”, and “Iron Man” (from the aforementioned Paranoid) and doom-encrypted debut-album gems such as “N.I.B.” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep”.
When the regular set was over and the band had left the stage, Ozzy waited at least a few seconds before calling for the crowd to call for an encore. And then–just in case anyone still wasn’t sure what Sabbath’s fave Sabbath album was–they topped things off with their first single, “Paranoid“.
I guess Iommi never got my memo about playing “Supernaut”.