BLACK SAB­BATH

PLUS: RI­VAL SONS UNITED CEN­TER, CHICAGO. 22.01.16 OH LORD, YEAH! SABBSÕ FI­NAL TOUR KICKS OFF IN PER­FECT, HEAVY STYLE

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ÔIS THIS the end of the be­gin­ning?õ mused Ozzy Os­bourne as his open­ing throw on Sabbsõ last al­bum, 13. ÔOR the be­gin­ning of the end?õwell, we now have the an­swer. That glo­ri­ous come­back al­bum from 2013 – the fi rst to bear Black Sab­bath’s name in al­most two decades, and the fi rst with Ozzy on vo­cals since 1978 Ð ul­ti­mately did not her­ald a new chap­ter of ac­tiv­ity for the orig­i­nal and best band in heavy metal. Rather, although drum­mer Bill Ward re­mains ab­sent, it has come to serve as a full-stop. The talk of an­other al­bum has ceased. The world tour Sab­bath are kick­ing off has been billed as The End. This is, as they say, it. But as sad as it is to see Ozzy, Tony Iommi and Geezer But­ler kick­ing off their fi nal world tour to­gether – and, let’s be hon­est, even sad­der that Bill Ward isn’t part of this fi nal cur­tain-call – for the two hours theyõre on­stage, there is magic in the air.

Up fi rst, and hand-picked by Ozzy and co to ac­com­pany them on this fi nal global jaunt, Ri­val Sons. A mod­ern band who look, sound and feel just like a band who could have done this tour in 1974, their bluesy strut and smoky riffs are au­to­mat­i­cally clas­sic, the per­fect aper­i­tif for what fol­lows.

As a fi nal hur­rah, what Sab­bath de­liver is about as per­fect as you can get. The time­less tri­tone of their sig­na­ture tune kicks things off on a wave of doom, Snowblind is dan­ger­ously bliss­ful, Iron Man’s riff gets a louder sing-along than half of Ozzy’s lyrics do, and N.I.B. proves that there is still no band with as fl uid a grasp of groove and thrust­ing swing as Sab­bath. Amaz­ingly, there are still sur­prises in the set, among the cast-iron guar­an­tees. After For­ever gets its fi rst air­ing in over a decade, while Hand Of Doom Ð and how, after al­most two decades of on/off re­union tour­ing from Sab­bath, are we only just notic­ing this? – hasn’t been played live since 1978. And, de­spite Ozzy hav­ing said that no­bodyõs in­ter­ested in hear­ing newer ma­te­rial from 13 (ac­tu­ally, we are), God Is Dead? gets cranked out, re­mind­ing us that Sabbs are end­ing this crazy ride as bril­liantly as they started it.

So, yes, this is the be­gin­ning of The End. Down­load awaits. And when Black Sab­bath hit Don­ing­ton Park for the last time, youõre go­ing to be cry­ing tears made of equal parts sor­row and joy. Mostly the lat­ter.

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