Ozzy Osbourne/Rob Halford
Madison Square Garden
Wednesday, December 1
Better than: Any other Ozzy performance of the 2000s.
Ozzy Osbourne is turning 62 on Friday. That makes him older than his new guitarist (the shredtastic Gus G. of Greek power-metal outfit Firewind) and his new drummer (Tommy Clufetos, who’s previously backed Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, and Rob Zombie) put together. But the truth is, having a band half his age has given him a big boost- — like, “hook his nipples to a car battery with jumper cables” big. This was a riotously energetic show, featuring a set list that went all the way back to 1969 (“N.I.B.,” from Black Sabbath’s debut), exploring Ozzy’s deep, deep catalog so thoroughly it left room for only one song from the surprisingly strong new album Scream.
After an unfunny video that pasted Ozz into Jersey Shore, Twilight, Avatar, Iron Man 2, and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video, things kicked off with “Bark at the Moon,” an appropriate choice, since that album introduced Jake E. Lee, the replacement for deceased guitarist Randy Rhoads, while Scream and this tour are Gus G’s introductions to the Ozzy fanbase. He’s got great stage presence, as do Clufetos and bassist Blasko; they look the part, and more importantly, they lock in tight on every song, whether it’s a slick new one like “Let Me Hear You Scream” or classics like “Crazy Train,” “I Don’t Know,” and “Flying High Again.” And there were a lot of classics; the set ran over two hours and was studded with seven Sabbath tunes, including “Into the Void” and the instrumental “Rat Salad” (that’s where they wedged in the obligatory guitar and drum solos), alongside cuts from almost every solo album. There were too many ballads (“I Don’t Want to Change the World,” “Road to Nowhere,” and “Mama, I’m Coming Home”), and it would have been great to hear “Over the Mountain,” but taken in toto, this was the best Ozzy live set in years, a real gift to fans.
Rob Halford’s opening set, supporting Made of Metal, the latest by his namesake band, was also great. He’s thick in the middle these days, and dresses like a dockworker (black sweatshirt and jeans, chain wallet, heavy workboots), but his voice is as strong as ever and his band, too, keeps him young. He paces the stage like a lion, seeming to conduct the group with sweeping arm gestures. Lead guitarist Mike Chlasciak bounds all over the stage, inciting the crowd and keeping the energy level high at all times. Halford’s set list was heavy on the band’s own material, only including one song by Fight (Rob Halford’s thrashy early ’90s outfit) and three by Judas Priest, two of which were covers to begin with (Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown)” and Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust”). This is a good thing, because Halford knows how to write an anthemic metal song with an actual, memorable chorus; in the ’80s, their albums would have sold nearly as many as Judas Priest’s. They played four tracks from the new album to Ozzy’s one, and four more from the band’s debut, 2000’s Resurrection; unfortunately, there wasn’t time for anything from 2002’s way underrated Crucible.
Critical bias: I have every Judas Priest, Halford, and Fight album in my iPod, and only three by Ozzy: Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, and Scream.
Overheard: “I’ll be back next year . . . with my other band”: Rob Halford, apparently breaking news of a Judas Priest U.S. tour in 2011.
Random Notebook Dump: Basic Ozzy T-shirt: $40. Most expensive merch item: gray hoodie w/embroidered skulls: $90.
Resurrection (from Resurrection)
Made in Hell (from Resurrection)
Locked and Loaded (from Resurrection)
Made of Metal (from Made of Metal)
Nailed to the Gun (Fight)
Fire and Ice (from Made of Metal)
Thunder and Lightning (from Made of Metal)
The Green Manalishi (Judas Priest)
Diamonds and Rust (Judas Priest)
Jawbreaker (Judas Priest)
Like There’s No Tomorrow (from Made of Metal)
Cyberworld (from Resurrection)
Bark at the Moon (from Bark at the Moon)
Let Me Hear You Scream (from Scream)
Mr. Crowley (from Blizzard of Ozz)
I Don’t Know (from Blizzard of Ozz)
Fairies Wear Boots (Black Sabbath)
Suicide Solution (from Blizzard of Ozz)
Road to Nowhere (from No More Tears)
War Pigs (Black Sabbath)
Fire in the Sky (from No Rest for the Wicked)
Shot in the Dark (from The Ultimate Sin)
Rat Salad (Black Sabbath) (w/guitar and drum solos)
Iron Man (Black Sabbath)
Killer of Giants (from The Ultimate Sin)
N.I.B. (Black Sabbath)
Flying High Again (from Diary of a Madman)
Into the Void (Black Sabbath)
I Don’t Want to Change the World (from No More Tears)
Crazy Train (from Blizzard of Ozz)
Mama, I’m Coming Home (from No More Tears)
Encore: Paranoid (Black Sabbath)
Encore 2: I Just Want You (from Ozzmosis)