Tag Archives: Black Sabbath

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Have we been seeing a creative renaissance for our vintage rock and metal acts?

OK, so Black Sabbath may have played its last ever tour, we have seen one devastating rock star death after another and a number of acts are no more. But, in spite of all that, have we been witnessing a real renaissance for some of our classic rock and metal bands in recent years? I would contend we have.

After some difficult years in the late eighties and nineties for many of our much loved rock giants, one band after another have been releasing albums that stand up really well against their early classics. The aforementioned Black Sabbath released the brilliant 13 album in 2013, which in my view can happily sit alongside the first four Sabbath albums as a genuine bona fide classic. Uriah Heep’s Outsider released in 2014 can unashamedly sit alongside the David Byron-era material in terms of Heep’s unmistakable brand of melodic hard rock. Girlschool’s Guilty As Sin is every bit as good as their era-defining early albums, with lead track Come The Revolution a match for any of their well-known classic tunes. Saxon’s Battering Ram from 2015 and Judas Priest’s Redeemer Of Souls from 2014, each reviewed elsewhere here, both stand up well and offer everything you’d want to hear in a new album from either band. Even The Stones have got in on the act with their critically-acclaimed back-to-basics Lonesome & Blue album celebrating their R&B roots.

My theory is that all of these bands have reached a stage in their musical careers where, unlike some often painful attempts a decade or two ago, they have more than proved themselves. They now no longer feel obliged to sound contemporary or try to keep up with modern trends but can simply concentrate on sounding like themselves and producing the kind of music and the kind of albums that brought them to the public’s attention in the first place.

Of course, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be championing newer rock acts and none of the bands I’m talking about here are going to be around forever. However, I think we could still be seeing a few more classic releases yet from some of our favourite rock veterans over the next few years.

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Which have been your favourite band reunions?

Seven spectacular reunion gigs

The communal celebration of a band’s legacy, the return of a classic sound and unforgettable songs, the emotional resonance of seeing members sharing a stage again after many years apart; there can be something very,very special about reunion gigs of your favourite bands. As the reunited line-up of Ozzy, Geezer and Tony prepare to play their final Black Sabbath show I look back on some pretty special band reunions. In no particular order, here are seven spectacular reunions I’ve been lucky enough to witness in recent years.

1. Black Sabbath 2014 and 2017 – Truly one of the great reunions of modern times, even without original drummer Bill Ward. Back in 2014 when Sabbath played Hyde Park I wrote ‘Osbourne’s ups and downs have certainly been well-documented and Iommi has been undergoing debilitating bouts of chemotherapy over the past two years. All of that is a world away from tonight’s performance, however, and the band members are all blisteringly on form. They commence with a stunning version of War Pigs and one by one the classics are reeled off: Snowblind, Fairies Wear Boots, Iron Man. The sound is great. The guitars, drums and vocals are everything you would want at a Sabbath gig.’ When dates were announced for The End tour I had zero hesitation in snapping up a ticket. Reviews from 2014 here and from 2017 here.

2. Status Quo ‘Frantic Four’ 2013 and 2014 – Although Status Quo continued to fill arenas each year, there was something very special and very emotional about seeing the classic ‘frantic four’ line-up of Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi walk on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo after a 32-year absence. The earthy, rocky, bluesy brand of boogie they played that night was quite different from the keyboard-heavy pop-rock act that normally tours under the Quo banner these days and the crowd were absolutely ecstatic. Sadly, following the tragic death of Rick Parfitt, it’s something that can never be repeated now, but I was lucky enough to see them on both the original reunion tour in 2013 and the follow-up a year later. Here’s my review from 2014.

3. Mott The Hoople 2009 and 2013 – I have loved Mott The Hoople ever since discovering one of their albums second-hand as teenager in the early 80s. And although I’d seen Ian Hunter solo before I was amazed to open the Guardian guide one Saturday morning and see an advert for a Mott The Hoople reunion at the Hammersmith Apollo with all the original members, 35 years after the bands demise. Although alzheimer’s was beginning to take its toll on drummer Dale Griffin he joined the band for the encores in 2009. Hugely emotional, it was a glorious celebration of a criminally under-rated band and remains one of my favourite gigs of all time and remains a text-book case of how to pull off a reunion with dignity, style, emotion and meaning. I saw the band again at the O2 when the reunion (sans Griffin) was repeated four years later. The sad deaths of both Dale Griffin and bass-player Overend Watts in the past year remind us how privileged Mott fans were to get their long-awaited reunion when they did.

4. Beach Boys 2012– While I’d seen a couple of stunning solo shows from Brian Wilson, I’d never been at all tempted by the Mike Love-fronted band that continued to tour under the Beach Boys name. But when it was announced that the surviving Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks) would be re-uniting to celebrate the band’s fiftieth anniversary I snapped up tickets for friends and family as soon as they went on sale. A mega run-through of Beach Boys hits, a gloriously full sound (aided by musicians from Brian Wilson’s musically brilliant touring band) and a beautifully authentic-sounding new studio album, too, this was definitely a reunion not to be missed. Al Jardine’s voice was particularly outstanding still.

5. Blur 2009 and 2015 – Blur’s Hyde Park reunions have become something of a tradition. I saw the first in 2009 and although I missed the one for the 2012 Olympics I did see them again in 2015. ‘The crowd is hugely good natured and it’s very much a communal celebration in Hyde Park. These songs have stood the test of time and are rightly held in great affection, as are the band who play them’ is what I wrote at the time. My full review from 2015 here.

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6. Fotheringay 2015‘Sandy Denny was the finest British female singer-songwriter that ever lived. Fotheringay was the short-lived band she formed in 1970 on leaving Fairport Convention. It lasted less than a year, but forty-five years on the surviving members have reformed for a short tour and are playing their first London gig since 1970. Band reunions can elicit mixed reactions and some questions went through my mind on this one. However talented the remaining musicians are, would this be a worthwhile exercise with the band’s two main front-people, Sandy Denny and her husband Trevor Lucas, long since deceased? As soon as the band come on stage, though, and open with Nothing More, the opening number on the original Fotheringay album, all doubts are set aside.’ Full review here.

7. The Kinks (well Ray and Dave) 2015 – Who knows if there’ll ever be a Kinks reunion. I did, however, catch a solo gig of Dave Davies in Islington back in 2015 with a very nice surprise at the end. Here’s what I wrote at the time: ‘Of course, when he came back on for an encore we could all guess absolutely what the song was going to be. What we couldn’t guess, though, was who would be joining him for that final song. “A surprise for Christmas!” announced Dave and on walked his brother Ray, the two of them sharing a stage together for the first time in 19 years. The audience as one are hit with amazement and wonderment at this beautiful and unexpected moment in rock’n’ roll history. Ray was in fine voice as he sang You Really Got Me and Dave cranked up the guitar. The audience went wild. Excitement, joy and genuine emotion as that 2 minutes and 14 seconds of one of the greatest rock’n’roll songs of all time blasted out from the stage.’ Full review here.

Of course, there are some band reunions I would love to see if ever they were so inclined (Gillan, Supergrass, the surviving members of the Byrds) and there is one I would have loved to have seen happen more than anything (Slade) but the possibility of that seems ever more remote with each passing year. However, I do feel genuinely lucky to be present at each of those moments described above.

Which have been your favourite musical reunions and which bands would you like to see re-unite?

 

Black Sabbath at the O2 31/1/17

How do you end the most iconic heavy metal band of all time?

At one point, a couple of decades after their 70s heyday, it looked liked it might be with a constantly changing cast of replacement musicians, declining album sales, less than enthusiastic ticket sales and something of a whimper rather than a bang. But, following an initial reunion in the late 90s, a mega-successful album with ‘13’ and a hugely successful world tour which reunited three of the original four members in 2013/4, fans hoped that there would at least be one more opportunity to say a final farewell, even in spite of a hugely worrying lymphoma diagnosis for Tony Iommi.

So here we have it: The End – Black Sabbath’s final farewell tour which reaches it’s ultimate conclusion with a couple of dates at London’s O2 and two final concerts in the band’s home city of Birmingham. And it’s every bit as magnificent, spellbinding and heavy as Black Sabbath should be. From the familiar doom-laden chords of the opening ‘Black Sabbath’ to the unforgettable riff of ‘Paranoid’ for the encore, every single minute of this concert was special. Geezer Butler delivers those unmistakable bass-lines, Tony Iommi delivers that unmistakable crunching guitar and Ozzy Osbourne delivers those unmistakable wailing vocals – the essential and unchangeable ingredients that make Black Sabbath what it is. Yes, it’s a shame that Bill Ward is not here to participate in this final tour but drummer, Tony Clufetos, does an absolutely outstanding job with immense energy. I doubt, really, whether anyone could have done it better.

Ozzy, as always, is a fascinating character. Between songs he shuffles around the stage like the mumbling, slightly bewildered figure TV viewers came to love so much. But the second a song starts he is instantly transformed into the wailing, demonic rock god that fans of the ultimate heavy metal band have always known.

My first ever live experience of Black Sabbath was with Bev Bevan out of ELO on drums and Ian Gillan out of Deep Purple on vocals, encoring with Smoke On The Water (?!) How fitting that what is likely to be my last has Tony, Geezer and Ozzy performing Sabbath exactly the way it should be performed. It was an absolutely magnificent performance, stunning setlist and suitably evocative special effects. The atmosphere at the O2, which can be a bit lacking at times however good a band is, was absolutely electric from start to finish.

Whatever happens now this band has made it’s mark on rock music a billion times over and their contribution will not be forgotten. Thank you Black Sabbath.

Setlist:
Black Sabbath
Fairies Wear Boots
Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes
After Forever
Into the Void
Snowblind
War Pigs
Behind the Wall of Sleep
N.I.B.
Hand of Doom
Rat Salad
Iron Man
Dirty Women
Children of the Grave
Paranoid

http://www.blacksabbath.com/

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Previous review:

Black Sabbath at Hyde Park

Black Sabbath at Hyde Park 4/7/14

If there’s a competition for the longest gap between the first and second time you’ve seen a band then my entry will be Black Sabbath. I first saw them at Reading festival in 1983 and didn’t manage to see the band for a second time until tonight. My original encounter, back in 1983, was a rather strange version of Black Sabbath, though, with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan on vocals and Smoke on the Water as an encore; and it was mercilessly panned by the critics. Thirty one years later, however, and we are very much seeing a classic version of the band in Hyde Park giving an undoubtedly classic performance. Save from drummer Bill Ward, who is replaced by Tommy Clufetos from Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, it is the iconic Sabbath line-up with Osbourne on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar and Geezer Butler on bass.

Osbourne’s ups and downs have certainly been well-documented and Iommi has been undergoing debilitating bouts of chemotherapy over the past two years.  All of that is a world away from tonight’s performance, however, and the band members are all blisteringly on form. They commence with a stunning version of War Pigs and one by one the classics are reeled off: Snowblind, Fairies Wear Boots, Iron Man. The sound is great. The guitars, drums and vocals are everything you would want at a Sabbath gig. The visuals on the big screens behind add to the atmosphere of the music and the huge and good natured crowd loves it.

The set-list is vintage Sabbath, with two tracks from the recent comeback album, Age of Reason and God is Dead?, thrown in. The 13 album was more than just a comeback album, though, and God is Dead?, performed towards the end of tonight’s set, is a real classic that easily sits alongside other Sabbath classics of the early 70s. That was followed by a well-received Children of the Grave. A hugely appreciative Osbourne thanks the enormous crowd and the band leaves the stage.

Everyone knows how strict Westminster City Council is when it comes to their 10.30pm curfews at Hyde Park. But there were still some time precious minutes left and what everyone in the crowd wanted was for Black Sabbath to come back on and give us Paranoid. And that is exactly what we got, not only Sabbath’s best known song but one of the greatest rock tunes of all time. It was the climax to an utterly stunning evening. Iommi has hinted in interviews that after Hyde Park there may not be an opportunity for the band to tour again  so this could be Black Sabbath’s last ever performance. If it is then what an absolutely stunning performance to end on. 10/10.

Setlist:
War Pigs
Into the Void
Snowblind
Age of Reason
Black Sabbath
Behind the Wall of Sleep
N.I.B.
Fairies Wear Boots
Rat Salad
Iron Man
God Is Dead?
Children of the Grave
Paranoid

http://www.blacksabbath.com/

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