With well over forty years of gigs under my belt and finding my musical feet in the Seventies, it is hard to understand why I have never seen Black Sabbath live before. When tickets went on sale last year for ‘The End’ tour, there was one last chance remaining so, I grabbed it with both hands and brought a ticket for the last show on the tour in their hometown of Birmingham.
The Genting Arena is on the site of the NEC and is a fair way out of the City but it is a great arena size venue which holds 15,000 people yet, without you ever feeling you are standing in an Aircraft hanger.
Rival Sons from Long Beach, California kick off the show with a rocking set that really sets the mood. Regular touring partners for Black Sabbath, they are an excellent live outfit.
There are no great fanfares tonight, the place is full to bursting and, you just get the feeling that the main event is going to be what we would expect. A no frills workmanlike show, solid, intense, powerful, nothing less than Black Sabbath always deliver.
8.40pm and the lights go out, the bells toll and the curtain drops as the band kick off the set with ‘Black Sabbath’ from their 1970 debut. It’s a menacing start. ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ from Paranoid is next and it’s like a time machine! What is instantly obvious is how tight this band still is and what an amazing guitarist Tony Iommi remains.
The set has been constant during this final tour but, friends who had been to the London shows said that that tonight’s show saw the band on their best form of the tour and the sound mix, certainly the finest.
The set list speaks for itself, even a nod to that question “Name the best four best metal albums of all time”; Answer, “The first four Black Sabbath Albums” .
‘War Pigs’ mid set and N.I.B., are absolute gems as is ‘Hand of Doom’ from ‘Paranoid’. It’s a real treat to hear this song. We really need a four hour show to get all the songs in, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ is an instrumental and a drum solo takes care of the toilet break for the older members of the band.
The final section includes mighty versions of ‘Iron Man’ and an epic ‘Children of the Grave’ plus a shower of black and purple balloons, (which is just fitting for this show, nothing flashy, the music does the talking).
The band return for a final and sonic version of ‘Paranoid’ with, Geezer Butler sporting an Aston Villa Bass guitar in front of 15,000 pairs of arms held aloft (for the band, not Aston Villa, I must add).
An outstanding, never to be forgotten show. It was being recorded but, perhaps for those there, just let it sink into the memory where over the years, it will obtain an ever greater status of magic in your mind.
Fairies Wear Boots,
Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes,
Into the Void,
Behind the Wall of Sleep,
Hand of Doom,
Supernaut/Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Megalomania,
Children of the Grave