Black Sabbath rocked Madison Square Garden on Feb. 25, 2016. Known as the creators of heavy metal, the 60–somethings are passing through for the last time. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler are in the line-up together as the founding members. Bill Ward, the band’s original drummer, is replaced by Tommy Cluefetos. Promoted as The End, Black Sabbath is finishing a career that has spanned decades and influenced countless numbers of musicians.
Black Sabbath has gone through many line-ups. However, their core sound focuses on ominous lyrics and doomy music. Iommi, the band’s primary songwriter, wrote a majority of the music. Osbourne and Butler made their contributions lyrically. Collectively, they gave birth to a sound credited as having been influenced by the Beatles, Cream, Led Zepplin, and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Similarly, many contemporary heavy metal bands credit Black Sabbath as being the defining force of the genre. First formed as a blues band named Earth, as they developed a heavy base and tuned down guitar sound. After settling on a name change, their lyrics began to incorporate occult themes as well as dealing with social instability, political corruption, and war.
The concert began with an animated depiction of a winged demon emerging from an egg while spitting fire, and then the band’s name was formed. The large stage was minimalist in design, however, behind the drummer was a large LED screen that showed the group as they performed. The show included the obligatory pyro setup and light show. Bells and whistles aside, the focus was clearly on the performance of the band.
The title track from Black Sabbath, the band’s debut album, set an ominous tone for the show. Black Sabbath, originally from Birmingham England, roared through their set list, as though they were in their teens. Songs played during the two-hour performance were originally recorded between 1969 and 1975.
The band’s setlist was as follows:
- Black Sabbath
- Faires Wear Boots
- After Forever
- Into The Void
- War Pigs
- Behind The Wall of Sheep
- Hand of Doom
- Rat Salad
- Iron Man
- Dirty Women
- Children of the Grave
Black Sabbath rocked Madison Square Garden behind the voice of Ozzy Osbourne. In concerts past, Osbourne showed his age, many times struggling to hit the right note. However, this was certainly not the case Feb. 25, 2016. Although he did little more than walk the stage and throw his hands up in the air, his performance was strong and sounded the way fans remembered. The same can be said of his band mates. Both Butler and Iommi were crisp, especially during each of their respective solos.
Throughout the performance, scores of fans were singing along with the band. Multiple generations were represented in the audience, many playing air guitar, and air drums. As one of those fans, memories of the first time hearing Black Sabbath play were hard to ignore. Music has a way of categorizing moments in one’s life. Hearing a certain song has the ability to immediately transport a person back to a specific time and place. The End is a farewell, and more importantly, it is a celebration of a specific time and place. The early catalog represents a musical shift and world view through the eyes of young men working to get out of an impoverished condition. Years later, the songs created almost five decades ago, are still as powerful and have a relevance similar to when they were first played.
“Black Sabbath rocking Madison Square Garden” is a statement being said for the last time, as many iconic figures, Osbourne, Iommi, and Butler will ride off into the sunset. Evidenced by the energy of their performance, it is doubtful that the ride will be quiet.
Opinion by Garrett Sayers
Edited by Leigh Haugh
The New York Times: Black Sabbath’s Metal Séance of Fear, Dread, and Joy
Garrett Sayers: First-Hand Account of Black Sabbath, The End Performance Feb. 25, 2016
Invisible Oranges: Black Sabbath at Madison Square Garden
Image Courtesy of Shane Hirschman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License