Metalheads gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses.
Sydney’s newly-named Qudos Bank Arena was the church where 20,000 Black Sabbath fans from across all age groups came to worship the first gods of heavy metal for the last time.
The genre’s original architects came as harbingers of The End, their final tour before hanging up their guitars.
And the knowledge that this would be the last time we’d ever see Sabbath play live hung heavy in our hearts. But that didn’t mean it was a solemn affair.
Far from it.
Excitement and energy were amped to 11, and nowhere more so than onstage, where Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi assembled to perform their final ever Sydney show together as Black Sabbath.
And what would a concert from the godfathers of heavy metal be without an onslaught of memorable metal moments? Luckily they didn’t disappoint.
The tone of the night was set long before fans even stepped inside the concert venue. Coming up the escalators at Olympic Park train station, Sabbath’s Iron Man could be heard blaring through the entrance above.
To the shock of all, it turned out to be emanating from a police paddy wagon parked just outside the turnstiles. Yep. The coppers were blasting Sabbath’s entire Paranoid album, maybe to flaunt their fanboy chops, maybe to pump up the crowd, maybe both.
Either way, Sydney police intentionally disturbing the peace by cranking Black Sabbath?
The vibe continued in another unexpected place: the bag check line on the way into the venue. And look, I realise how completely wacked that sounds. But never before have I been asked by a security guard whether I’ve got any drugs on me, replied “No” and then received the response: “Damn! Why not?”
Meanwhile, the cops seemed to be having a jolly old time helping punters snap pics in front of the huge Sabbath banner splashed across the front of the arena.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a concert of this magnitude that was so refreshingly bullshit-free. Where the security and law enforcement seemed to be having just as much fun as the punters.
There’s the cure for your nanny state, right there.
Heavy farking metal.
As soon as Rival Sons’ set kicked off, it was clear why they were the perfect choice to open for Sabbath. Ignore the tambourines. This Californian act’s synth-laced howling blues rock has its origins in the same primordial ooze as Sabbath’s own. Imagine a voodoo swamp, somewhere dark and spiritual and bubbling with black magic. The crowd were quickly won over by frontman Jay Buchanan’s spellbinding vocals, which shifted effortlessly between Jim Morrison croons, Robert Plant shrieks and ghostly Jeff Buckley falsetto. The band’s radio-perfect rendition of their 2014 hit Open My Eyes was enough to make you want to sell your soul at a crossroads for the ability to play guitar like Scott Holiday. Metal status unlocked.
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Black Sabbath burst onto the stage following the most metal intro clip of all time, showing the spawning of a fire-breathing satanic apocalypse demon. Ozzy Osbourne laughed maniacally and grinned like a bad schoolboy as the iconically evil intro of Black Sabbath rang out inside the arena, propelled by 16 massive gothic speakers lined up across the stage. The song’s trademark tritone may be the devil’s interval, but it struck just the right chord with Sydney’s Sabbath faithful.
The ant-snorting, bat-chomping loose unit that we’ve come to know as Ozzy Osbourne was in full force during Snowblind. Those expecting the now geriatric Prince Of Darkness to do some crazy-ass shit weren’t disappointed when a presumably well-endowed female fan threw quite a sizeable brassiere onto the stage. Ozzy being Ozzy wasted no time putting on the giant bra and proceeding to dance around and shake his tits at Tony Iommi.
But the most hilarious part was when Iommi finally noticed the suddenly buxom Ozzy, tried not to crack up, but inevitably failed (around the 4:14 mark).
Ozzy seemed to hit peak levels of Ozzy during Snowblind, polishing off the song by bowing maniacally to the crowd in a scene that was straight out of Waynes’s World.
Presumably he’d enjoyed one thousand brown M&Ms in a brandy glass before he went onstage that night.
You haven’t heard War Pigs until you’ve heard it sung by a crowd of 20,000 Black Sabbath fans singing it for the last time.
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So the fact that drummer Bill Ward was MIA from the farewell tour courtesy of an ugly public spat with Ozzy was a point of contention for many Sabbath fans going into this show. But let me tell you something, there is no way in hell that Ward could have pulled off a drum solo like Tommy fucking Clufetos.
I think I can speak for most Sabbath fans in saying I honestly had no idea who this guy was before this Sydney show, but now, I’ll never bloody forget him. The tatted-up scraggly-haired 36-year-old touring drummer is a spring chicken compared to the rest of the band, but his maniac energy gave their live show a monster shot of wow factor. And HO. LY. SHIT. that drum solo. Coming in after Rat Salad, the thing must have gone for about 10-minutes, with old mate pounding the thunder out of his toms and getting faster and faster until his arms were a legitimate blur and the solo itself sounded like straight up machine gun fire. Clufetos = demon.
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One of the most incredible things about Sabbath’s Sydney concert was Tony Iommi. The whole time, just Tony Iommi.
After all of the horrific shit that this iconic rifflord has gone through over the years – and is still in many ways going through – seeing him up there having the time of his life with his old pals Ozzy and Geezer and giving it his absolute all was basically proof that heroes exist.
And look, performance-wise, Ozzy isn’t always the greatest. His vocals can be pitchy and at times straight up flat salad, but you don’t really care too much because, you know, it’s Ozzy, right?
But Iommi? His performance was top-to-bottom fucking flawless. Bow down.
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Black Sabbath don’t fuck around. After performing their “last song” Children Of The Grave, they did leave the stage, but the crowd didn’t even have time to start chanting for an encore because – hilariously – Ozzy beat them to the punch. The Prince Of Darkness’s disembodied voice commanded the audience to start calling for the band to come back, and quicker than you can say “Paranoid”, Sabbath were back onstage performing one of the biggest songs in their arsenal.
And in these bleak days when music’s biggest icons seem to be getting taken away from us at an increasingly alarming rate, getting one last chance to see such a legendary band perform a quality set was an experience that not one person out of the 20,000 attending took lightly.
But we’ve probably got no reason to sweat it anyway, you guys.
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