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Brummie inventors of heavy metal back home where they belong

Black Sabbath, Brummie inventors of heavy metal, were finally back home where they belong, shrugging off their collective 227 years and the serious health problems that have dogged their later lives. More than 15,000 turned out to worship at the altar of the rock guitar riff as founders Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler – with babe-in-arms Tommy Clufetos standing in for Bill Ward – rolled back time.

They’d been at ease with each other at the soundcheck, laughing and joking, but there’d been an underlying tension. “Playing our hometown with all our family and friends out there will be nerve-racking,” admitted Iommi, “We’ve not felt this nervous at any other gig on the tour.”

From the moment the men in black hit stage and launched into War Pigs – recorded all of 43 years ago – the LG Arena erupted. Fans, some of whom had queued since 7.30am to get the best places at the front, embraced their own.

“Let’s go f***ing wild!” yelled Ozzy as they followed with Into The Void, telling the Birmingham crowd: “I’ve missed you.” His voice may be not what it once was but, hell, it didn’t matter. Not here. Not back home.

Under The Sun, with video footage of money-grabbing evangelists, anti-Sabbath protesters in America’s Bible Belt, lesbian nuns and those pictures of the Pope, continued the history lesson. Snowblind, with an Ozzy health warning, was next. Not that this was a nostalgia exercise. Sabbath sound as powerful and as vital as they have ever done. New song Age Of Reason boasted Iommi’s best guitar yet as Clufetos pounded the drums as hard as the late John Bonham.

“We want to take you back to the very beginning,” Ozzy told the fans. “Can you believe we’ve been going 45 f***ing years?”

Cue Black Sabbath, the track that opened their debut album. As the band hit an irresistible groove midway through the song, their frontman poured a bucket of water over a hapless security steward.

“I’m back in f***ing Birmingham!” yelled Ozzy, by way of explanation.

Behind The Wall Of Sleep, N.I.B – ushered in by a busy Butler bass solo – End Of The Beginning... they just kept coming. Fairies Wear Boots, with its seductively sinister video, turned full tilt boogie. Drum solos usually mark the moment you head to the bar or take a comfort break but Clufetos’ Rat Salad showpiece was jaw-dropping. Technically tight but brutally brilliant, the US drummer brought the house down. Iron Man and God Is Dead? got the moshpit moving. Dirty Women, with its B-movie video backing, isn’t one of the band’s best but surprisingly served up Iommi’s best solo of the night. Children Of The Grave was a climactic closer.

“One more song,” chanted the crowd. “It’s Christmas,” responded Ozzy. “Shall we come back and do it again?” raising hopes that this weekend’s double header may not, after all, be their last hometown gigs. Encore Paranoid, its razor riff cutting through confetti cannons, and the release of giant balloons, ended a memorable two-hour homecoming.

After the gig Sabbath celebrated with friends including ELO’s Bev Bevan, funnyman Jasper Carrott, Blues legend Trevor Francis, sixties star Dave Berry, family and a pet pooch flown in from LA.

“It’s been a great night,” said Iommi, who thanked the Sunday Mercury for our support of the band. “We were all pretty nervy about being back in Brum. We wanted it to be special for the fans. D’you think they liked it?”

Silly question. They do it all again at Birmingham’s NIA tonight.


Paul Cole for Birmingham Mail, 21 December 2013
Photo by Birmingham Mail



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