Black Sabbath - The End (5 Stars)
OK, it's not quite up there with the moon walk by Neil Armstrong or the assassination of JFK but in terms of musical or even world-wide cultural events, the final concert (of official tours) of Black Sabbath ranks right up at the top in significance. Due to the health of guitarist Tony Iommi, the band that is singularly responsible for the formation of heavy metal is calling it a night.
The End (DVD/CD) is a victory lap for the individuals that invented heavy metal as we know it. Fortunately for those of us that did not get to attend the dark swan song, Eagle Rock Entertainment has just issued the final show on this tour, fittingly held in the British band's hometown of Birmingham. And what a show it was....
I grew up with Sabbath and know the music inside and out however it has taken a back seat in recent years to newer and shinier things. Viewing this DVD was both a satisfying trip down memory lane and a sobering reminder of the passing of time since the band has decided to step into partial retirement. Hearing these songs played by three of the original four members with such fire and finesse almost brought a tear to the eye, as it quite evidently did to many members of the audience who were captured in the throes of painful emotion.
The set was made up of material from their heyday of the Ozzy Osbourne years sidestepping Never Say Die and 13. When the bells from the song Black Sabbath began to chime, the crowd went wild. Then when the curtain fell and the familiar bone-crushing chords from Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, it was an immediate reminder of how the big boys do it.
Right from the get-go, the band (including fill-in drummer Tommy Clufetos and keyboardist Adam Wakeman) looked like it was in prime form. Ozzy's voice was strong and the music sounded like the records. Always one of metal's premier frontmen, Ozzy seemed to be in great spirits and although he doesn't cover as much ground as he used to, he still managed to play the MC part to perfection.
This whole DVD is full of high points but for me nothing was better than Fairies Wear Boots which was simply sublime. The tempo changes drove the crowd to the brink and back aided by Ozzy's cheer-leading efforts. NIB from the debut (with a brief tasty Geezer solo) and particularly closer Children of the Grave were pretty impressive as well. Snowblind was crushing and After Forever really stepped up. Finally, as expected, encore Paranoid blew the roof off, with audience screaming the words.
One thing that stood out was the connection between the band members. Ozzy enjoyed several moments with Tony Iommi that truly conveyed the special bond they initially enjoyed in 1968 and found again in recent years. Iommi alternately concentrated on segments of songs and then spent large periods effortlessly tossing off chords while surveying the crowd as if to drink in every last minute.
Butler, as usual, buried himself in his bass and rarely looked up but as every Sabbath fan knows, that's just Geezer. Tommy Clufetos played like an absolute madman particularly during his brief solo at the end of Rat Salad.
Much praise has to be done on the filming and editing team as the shot selection was spot on, zooming in on Iommi's fret hands to see the artificial tips he wears as a result of a work accident before Sabbath started. The filming followed the music perfectly, focusing on a band member for a minute before starting a montage of shots as each member did their thing. I usually find abrupt camera changes really distracting but for this presentation, the pace was perfect.
A surprise part of this package is something called The Angelic Sessions. This five song set features material not played on the tour and it's filmed in a small room with all the members in a circle facing each other. The songs include The Wizard, Wicked World, Sweet Leaf, Tomorrow's Dream and Changes, all ranking high on the enjoyment meter.
In terms of live records, usually the best from a band comes from the start of their career. A case could be made for the opposite for Black Sabbath and The End. Get it here.
Black Sabbath - The End (5 Stars)