Ozzy Osbourne w/ Halford 11/29/10
1st Mariner Arena – Baltimore, MD
Words/Photos by jjp3rd
Heavy Metal titans Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Halford and their respective bands descended on Baltimore’s venerable First Mariner Arena Monday for their first U.S. tour date after a brief Canadian jaunt, and treated a surprisingly (relatively) sparse crowd to a several hour metal music manifesto. And throughout both acts’ performances, Halford and Ozzy expressed their gratitude to the crowd for coming, which struck me as a testament to why, besides their music, these two class acts (and Metal icons) continue to succeed and maintain such a loyal following.
Co-headliners Halford opened the show, providing those in attendance with a selection that included a powerful selection of songs from singer Rob Halford’s illustrious career as a soloist and as a member of Judas Priest. The set list included, in no particular order: “Locked and Loaded,” “Jawbreaker,” “Nailed to the Gun,” “Fire and Ice,” “Cyberworld,” and others.
As the opener, Halford was limited to roughly one hour—and in that abbreviated timeframe, the band was able to deliver a resounding performance that, though leaving Judas Priest fans yearning for more classics (where’s my British Steel?), left no doubt that Mr. Halford has maintained almost all of the vocal power that has positioned him near the top of the Heavy Metal pantheon, as supported by his nickname, Metal God.
Backed by a solid rhythm section and flanked by shredding guitarists Mike Chlasciak and Roy Z (also a phenomenal producer who’s produced the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Judas Priest and many others), Halford seemed in his element, walking the stage and thoroughly thrilling the crowd. In fact, with the two guitarists playing their flying vees, one couldn’t help but to note the resemblance they bore to Judas Priest.
And, on that note, in addition to illustrating a distinct mastery of Halford band material such as the title track from their latest recording, Made of Metal, the band did a great job with the Judas Priest songs, accurately performing the tunes just as they were performed by the band in its heyday. One of the crowd favorites was “Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown),” which one might be surprised to learn is not a Priest original, but rather a Fleetwood Mac song from the Peter Green days. If you have yet to avail yourself of early Fleetwood Mac featuring Peter Green, do so—you will be surprised at the sound of that early material, especially in light of the “Don’t Stop” poppish sound that later became the standard Fleetwood Mac fare.
Of note—while “Manalishi” was a crowd favorite, it also was the only chink in Halford’s vocal armor that night—and while it was a slight waver of the voice during the chorus, it was perhaps telling nonetheless that time eventually has its way with all of us.
That aside, and as mentioned at the beginning of this review, Rob Halford still can bring a bombastic vocal assault, ranging from the high-pitched vocal screaming in Son of Judas to the low growls in Diamonds and Rust. And this, coupled with the dynamic energy of his supporting cast who clearly were enjoying the night, made for a very satisfying experience.
The only thing that could conceivably follow such a fantastic performance would be a great performance by The Prince of Darkness…and Ozzy and his crew delivered a blistering show as well. I continue to be amazed at the energy that artists such as Ozzy and Rob Halford put into their live performances. Years ago (too many years), if someone had told me that some day I’d be watching a 61 year-old Ozzy spray the audience with foam while his band simultaneously drowns them with a deluge of drums and guitar, I’d have laughed at them. But here we are, in 2011, and the acts we loved then are seemingly just as good, if not better, today.
Ozzy’s set, like Halford’s, was filled with classics and also featured some new cuts, too. New Guitarist, Gus G., was up to the task, doing an excellent job of representing the 3 amazing guitarists who preceded him at Ozzy’s side, while also maintaining his own identity in the process. The thought of filling 3 large pair of shoes is daunting, and Gus most certainly seems to have made this transition with ease. Kudos.
On to the show—Ozzy and his band opened with a great rendition of “Bark at the Moon,” and then after a short hello played “Let Me Hear You Scream,” from the latest release, Scream. This song I had heard a number of times on the radio or being played by my brother on the CD player (incidentally, he accompanied me on this show, and this was at least his 12th Ozzy show. He ranked it among the top Ozzy performances he’d seen since 1985). Up until hearing this live performance, though, I was not overly impressed with the song; however, on this night the band brought it to life for me and really changed my opinion of the tune. It’s always interesting to me how sometimes I don’t “get” a song, and suddenly something clicks, whether an internal or external cue, and my opinion is changed. This is one of those occurrences.
With the requisite “I love you all” and “you are number one” phrases repeated throughout the show with a tone that I interpret as genuine (as noted, both Ozzy and Rob Halford portray a real affection for their audiences), the band then careened through “Mr. Crowley” and “Faeries Wear Boots,” with keyboardist Adam Wakeman picking up a Les Paul-style guitar to provide even more oomph to this all-time Black Sabbath classic.
My standards may be too high, but on this night, I felt like the band did not quite fire on all cylinders on all of the Sabbath songs—they also played “Iron Man” and “War Pigs.” This might be due to the slightly different arrangements and/or effects they used in the presentation of these classics, or just the fact that I yearn to hear a picture-perfect performance and my standard is set way too high. Something seemed just a little off on these songs, but overall, I still grade the performance of them as above average.
Speaking of Sabbath, the instrumentalists had a chance to shine as well in what I would characterize as a modified arrangement of Electric Funeral. This served as a showcase for the talents of new members Gus G. on guitar and Tommy Clufetos on drums. Both were very talented (they’re keepers, for sure) and provided the audience with memorable solos, Clufetos’ performance replete with hydraulic lifts under the drum platform and giant gong for emphasis. He is a very capable drum with boundless energy and exhorted the crowd, almost angrily, to get into the moment. Indeed, throughout the show, he was the driving force behind the band as they deftly dashed through Ozzy classics “Crazy Train,” “I Don’t Want to Change the World,” “Shot in the Dark” (keyboards were a little heavy on this one), “Suicide Solution,” “Road to Nowhere,” ”I Don’t Know,” and “Suicide Solution” (not in that order).
Ozzy is a truly genuine performer who gives his all in every show, and though I feared that perhaps the smaller crowd might put something of a damper on his exuberance, I could not have been more wrong.And while he may have lost a bit in the vocal department (not so much as to be a detractor from the performance, from start to finish, Ozzy performed as if he was playing in front of 100,000 fans—with energy, humor, and class.
It always strikes me how antithetical his “Prince of Darkness” moniker is; if ever there was a person through whom the light was shining, it is Ozzy. And if one studies the early Sabbath lyrics from songs such as “After Forever” and others, or if one read his recent memoir and/or interviews supporting said memoir, that person would see the true Ozzy, the one who is on-stage for his fans, night after night. It’s a shame that people judge performers based on clichés such as clothing, stage accoutrements, etc. People can like making or listening to heavy music, wear tattoos, and still be good people.
Ozzy and his team historically have done well in surrounding him with a group of uber-talented (and younger) musicians. For that matter, so has Halford. And on this night, they both drew energy and support from their fellow musicians, as well as their loyal fans, and provided an amazing evening of entertainment.