Black Sabbath + Rival Sons
Saturday 4th February 2017
Genting Arena Birmingham
The mighty Black Sabbath. They created down tuned, dirty, doom laden heavy metal aeons ago. Wrote songs that defined an entire genre and inspired millions of people. Lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle to legendary excess, managing to survive through some miraculous method or other. Black Sabbath are musical titans.
And this was The End – their last ever gig. At least as far as we know at this point in time, and taking into consideration the band members current situations.
This was The End – Black Sabbath’s last live performance, ever – in their home city of Birmingham.
Through a result of pure luck I was able to blag myself on a trip to witness the event. Sabbath are one of those bands that I’ve long been obsessed with, going on nearly thirty years now. They’ve created fantastic albums that I’ve listened to again and again, so it was great to be able to catch this gig, before it was all over.
The support band were Rival Sons, a younger band that’s regarded very positively by fans and press alike. I’m only familiar with one album or so worth of songs, but can safely say that they put on a very impressive performance. Their music is rooted in the classic rock of yore, so it was an apt choice to support. I didn’t recognise any of the material, but then Rival Sons are a band that definitely require some homework on my part.
A confident and popular support act, Rival Sons coped with the huge arena well. They merit further investigation – I’m sure that classic song to get me hooked is tucked away on an album somewhere.
And so to the headliners, the incredible but sadly not immortal, Black Sabbath. Of course they opened with the legendary “Black Sabbath” – what else? – the eerie three note, devil’s tritone that heralded the birth of metal years since. A perfect start to the evening, Black Sabbath then proceeded to entertain with two hours of solid classics.
From my vantage point, standing in the massive arena hall near the sound desk, I couldn’t see great deal. In fact, I could see more of Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, in the nearby VIP area, than I could of Ozzy. The sound however was superb and the set loaded with classics. Plus I don’t think Ozzy (or Tony or Geezer) did much running around the stage anyway.
Most of the songs were from the first four albums, which was cool by me. Highlights were “Into the Void”, “Snowblind”, “Children of the Grave” and an unexpected showing of “Hand of Doom”. Brilliant bass from Geezer Butler on “N.I.B.” too.
My absolute favourite Sabbath track, “Supernaut”, was unfortunately relegated to being sandwiched in as part of a medley (along with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, another fave) – and therefore sadly under exposed. A shame that, I went mental when the opening riff started. No “Sweet Leaf” either.
“Supernaut” should have been in the set, certainly it was preferable to “Dirty Women” which was hauled out of the cellar and into the light one more time. Although not their best material, this song did give Tony Iommi a chance to shine, the final guitar solo was absolutely explosive.
There were sadly no extra special moments, such as famous guests getting up to join in – maybe that would’ve diluted the spotlight on Sabbath. It was nice to let them have their final moment of glory. I think we were all hoping Bill Ward would make an appearance behind the drum kit for one last time though.
And finally, it was all over – with one last rendition of the genius song that is “Paranoid”.
Their final gig was set to be emotional, set in their hometown for one last time. In fact it was a hugely uplifting experience, rather than sombre – hundreds of the faithful showing their respect for all the music we love. Not just Sabbath, but every metal band that’s followed in their sepulchral wake.
Black Sabbath – their legacy lives on. They are the ultimate metal band and they leave us with a back catalogue beyond compare. It’s never really The End.
The full setlist is here.