Black Sabbath

Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto ON, August 29

Black SabbathMolson Amphitheatre, Toronto ON, August 29
Photo: Ross Halfin
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Having brought metal to the masses in a number of different incarnations for nearly half a century, the end is nigh for Black Sabbath.
 
The band's Toronto stop on their "The End" tour was not only a capstone on summer concerts in the city, but for their own appearances in Canada as well, the sold-out Molson Amphitheatre packed with those looking to kneel at the altar of one of the world's most renowned metal bands one last time. The band's storied history and importance within the genre needs no retelling: letting the ominous three-note progression of "Black Sabbath" ring out to open the show, original members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were content to let 14 cuts from their inaugural era as a group do the talking.
 
Much has been made of Osbourne's vocal ability (or lack thereof) since the band's initial reunion tour in 2013, and anyone looking for an outright return to form from the Prince of Darkness would have been hard-pressed to find one. With the majority of the set transposed to fit within his maturing vocal range, Ozzy fought to stay in key early on through "Fairies Wear Boots" and "After Forever," continuing to belt out lyrics while sounding a little flat through the blues-influenced intonations of "Into the Void" and "Snowblind" soon after. This battle continued throughout the set, with Osbourne finding himself in key for two consecutive songs only to lose himself again with the next.
 
But what Osbourne lacked in technical proficiency on this particular evening was made up for in spirit. It was hard to find a moment where he didn't yell "put your fucking hands up" at the crowd with a slightly manic grin on his face, exhibiting more energy than some of the audience members his own age. He played hype man each time one of his bandmates took a solo, making sure to address them as "Geezer fucking Butler" and "Tony fucking Iommi." He spared no bit of strength in getting the crowd to wave back and forth or pump their fists in the air for some resounding chanting.
 
Unlike their vocalist, Butler and Iommi had little fault in their own respective performances. The bassist's thundering low end remained unfailingly precise through the tempo changes of "Behind the Wall of Sleep," the ominous "Hand of Doom" and "N.I.B.," on which he nailed his unmistakable wah-laden "Bassically" solo intro.
 
Iommi, not long removed from announcing his cancer is in remission, made no errors in delivering both the beloved riffs and solo sections of "War Pigs" and "Iron Man" — not a note missed, not a bluesy bend overdone. A highlight saw the two tear through the speedy bridge section of the latter Sabbath staple at its original speed, an unprecedented move considering the song's iconic riff was played at a much slower pace to fit Osbourne's vocals.
 
Drummer Tommy Clufetos, taking the place of Bill Ward, brought a bit of youthful vitality in adding his own impressive fills in place of Ward's in a handful of instances. He was able to let loose with a drum solo outro to "Rat Salad," gradually increasing his speed until the BPM could go no higher, fills rolling into one another for an absolute mess of drums.
 
Not one to mince words, Osbourne took the mystique of the encore away from the crowd by hiding behind Iommi's wall of guitar cabs, encouraging the crowd to chant "one more song" only to reappear seconds after to close with "Paranoid." The crowd roared with delight, the sold-out amphitheatre raised their fists and a group of inebriated 20-somethings rushed down an aisle towards the floor with security in hot pursuit.
 
One final time, hell was raised.
 
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