Black Sabbath LIVE @ LG Arena, Birmingham 20.12.13

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. “Can you believe we’ve been doing this for 45 fucking years?”, frontman Ozzy Osbourne said with disbelief on the penultimate date of their tour in Birmingham; no one can quite believe it. The release of their 19th album ‘13’ earlier this year marked 35 years since the last studio album with Ozzy – ‘Never Say Die!’ – and with reaching No.1 showing their long lasting popularity.

First to grace the LG Arena’s stage were Cambridge’s long haired, suit wearing Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats. It’s not an envious job opening up for Black Sabbath with the early-comers mostly not knowing who they are but introducing themselves with overdriven guitars, harmonious vocals and just psychedelic-inspired rock it was hard not become more open to them. Although not with always a perfectly flawless sound they made up for it with their Sabbath-esque riffs being a quick crowd-pleaser.

The first sign of life from Black Sabbath was an almost chilling outcry from Ozzy whose figure flickered behind a curtain joined with the wailing of sirens which caused the double denim and leather clothed crowd to be sent wild. Opener ‘War Pigs’ got things going with the repetitive cry of “let’s go fucking crazy” from the overexcited looking frontman. Tony Iommi worked his magic on his famous red SG; Geezer Butler effortlessly strummed along and tour drummer Tommy Clufetos seemed as if he’d been a part since the beginning when laying down the beats.

Age can’t beat Sabbath. They might be old enough to get a free bus pass but they can still lay down perfectly executed tracks with ease. Butler’s solo during ‘N.I.B’ would make even the most skilled of bass players envious of the skill he possesses and Iommi just sauntered around whilst pulling out solo after solo and riff after riff. When they fitted these in together, you couldn’t help but be glad that the Brummie guys were back together.

Clearly glad to be home, Ozzy adopted the classic ‘we’re not worthy’ Wayne’s World pose while shouting “you’re number one.” What else do you expect from the manic frontman? He even drenched a couple of security men with a bucketful of water whilst running up and down the breadth of the stage getting the crowd to join in with waving and jumping. His stage presence resembled something a hyper 5-year old would do (minus the “let’s go fucking nuts” of course) but when you get to hear those renowned wailing vocals live it makes up for it.

When they reached ‘Rat Salad’ we finally got to see the pure talent coming from drummer Tommy Clufetos and wow. Just wow. Nearing 10 minutes worth of awe-inducing frenzied drumming Clufetos had without a doubt won over the crowd. During the end he brought it down to just a single beat which then grew to the opening of ‘Iron Man’ with the entrance of Ozzy, Iommi and Butler. Joining in with singing the legendary opening riff was surprisingly Ozzy who along with the crowd seemed overexcited to hear it himself. Brandishing another first-rate solo was Tony Iommi; how does he even do it? Definitely the coolest guy in metal.

The first we heard of 13 was ‘God is Dead’ and live, it fitted in perfectly with the old material no problem. Other newbies ‘Age of Reason’ and ‘End of the Beginning’ earlier on in the set wouldn’t be recognisable as new and fresh either if you didn’t know already. Constantly throwing out intense riffs, imposing bass lines, pounding drums and those unsettling vocals; everything those legends do is right.

Threatening to end the show with an enthralling performance of ‘Children of the Grave’ the crowd were reluctant to let them leave by following Ozzy’s instructions to once again go “fucking crazy because it’s Christmas.” This paid off well as everyone got treated to ‘Paranoid’ with a small intro of ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ and now got told to go “ape-shit” which was aided by the falling of confetti and balloons.

Their heydays may have been back in the 70s but the diverse range of ages in the LG Arena showed how Sabbath are still one of the leading and best bands ever to come out of Birmingham. Let’s hope they don’t have any more fallings out or legal disputes and stay together because we can’t have another period with no sign of Black Sabbath.