SLCR #234: Black Sabbath (March 4, 2016)
If you want to read a review from someone who actually knows a thing about things, go read Boppin’s review of the Hamilton show. We synced up our posts and everything!
I don’t really know how this happened. The Calgary trip was booked, timed to coincide with the Frank Turner show, and I happened to check Pollstar to see what else was going on while I was there, and somehow I wound up going to Black Sabbath? I am confused.
I know the show wasn’t originally scheduled for tonight. I was in my favourite Regina record store (Regina’s only record store) and overheard a customer telling the owner that he’d driven to Edmonton to see Sabbath – that’s about 8 hours one way, for those of you unfamiliar with western Canadian geography – only to get there and have Sabbath cancel two hours before showtime because Ozzy Osbourne was sick. He wasn’t able to go to the rescheduled concert since it was in the middle of the week. The guy was out gas and hotel, and because he’d bought his ticket from a reseller, he wasn’t eligible for a refund. He was talking about trying to come to this Calgary show instead. I wonder if he made it.
Black Sabbath is pretty far outside my wheelhouse. When I said I was thinking of going, I mentioned that I know Iron Man, and, well, Iron Man. Mike said that I’d surely know War Pigs and Paranoid, so I gave them a listen, and yeah, I sure did. That brings me up to three whole songs, one of which was wrecked for me by its inclusion on All Day by Girl Talk – I can’t hear War Pigs without wanting to add MOVE BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY, GET OUT THE WAY BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY. I should be prohibited from listening to mashups as they can corrupt (enhance?) perfectly good songs.
Despite being a classic pro wrestling song (the original entrance music for the Road Warriors), my familiarity with Iron Man actually began in high school when after thoroughly and justly tearing apart my taste in music, a classmate made me a mix tape which had Iron Man and other metal of that vintage on it. To be fair, Iron Man has held up a lot better than whatever shit I was listening to at the time.
Notice how I was humourously self-deprecating and yet somewhat vague, so that I don’t have to admit that I specifically remember that I bought an MC Hammer CD which was what set off his (again, 100% justifiable) teardown of my tastes – I mean, it was the one with 2 Legit 2 Quit on it, not even the one with U Can’t Touch This which I could at least defend somewhat as being popular and catchy. But I digress.
Anyway, I thought about going to Black Sabbath and asked Mike and Aaron if they thought it would be worth it for someone like me who ultimately gives no shits as it pertains to Black Sabbath. I knew full well what the answer would be so maybe I just wanted someone to convince me to go?
Honestly, if the show was in Regina, I would never have considered it. Driving? Parking? Leaving my house? Sounds awful. And if I had to take the C-Train or god forbid a bus or cab in Calgary? Forget it. But the Saddledome is walking distance. It was there. I was there. This is probably not a good enough reason. Maybe reading through all those old reviews, listening to Mika say “I can’t believe you saw (whichever band) and didn’t even appreciate it” made me want to give Mike and Aaron the same opportunity.
But I thought about it, and what the hell, right? I know three songs. That’s three more than a lot of bands I go see. And I like walking. And this is supposed to be their farewell tour (I’m sure by that they mean this is the setup for their reunion tour next year, but still). And it might be fun to write a review of something different. Consider this an anthropological expedition.
Walking around 17th Ave this afternoon, I saw a dude who reminded me of the typical metal guy from high school. Hair down to his ass, jean jacket covered in patches with logos of bands I’ve never heard of and that sound vaguely comical in their attempts to be scary. I wanted to ask if he was going to the show tonight. I later saw him there. There was quite a varied mix of folks at this thing – your stereotypical metalheads, for sure, but older folks and young kids and parents and some people who dressed the part and others who were just folks who were out for an evening. Basically the same as any other big arena rock show I’ve ever been to.
I got about 100 metres from the Saddledome when the first wave of pot stink hit me. Dave had predicted I’d wind up stoned by the end of the evening. I don’t know that he was right, but by god, the Calgarians tried their best. It was intermittent until Sabbath actually took the stage, at which point it never let up.
I walked up the stairs to the Saddledome and saw a notice posted on the doors – tonight’s show would feature strobe lights and pyrotechnics. Ah jeez, pyrotechnics, my least favourite of all the technics. I’m jumpy as heck and every time I go to the Saddledome, some shit has to explode and startle me. Either the Flames score a goal or Kane shows up or now this.
Whatever. Too late to back out now. I picked up my ticket at will call and wandered in through the metal detector. I set out in search of a stuff table – they were selling a tour-exclusive CD and Aaron and Mike had asked me to look for it. There were several merch stands, all of which were lined up 12 people deep and 8 across. It was insanity. As I stood in the line (it was more of a throng than a line, really), it occurred to me that if this was a band I was actually a fan of, no way would I bother with this. But being here and only being vaguely interested in Black Sabbath put me in an oddly calm headspace. It’s like how I feel wandering the mall at Christmastime after I’ve done all my shopping. Stress-free and relaxed in the midst of chaos.
I think I was in line for about 45 minutes. Right as I got to the front, they shut off the lights as the opener, Rival Sons, was taking the stage. This did not prevent me from buying three CDs – one each for me, Aaron, and Mike. Not sure why I got one for myself, as I’ll likely never listen to it.
(“You got one for yourself because they called it ‘Limited Edition’ and made it artificially scarce and you are a sucker and an idiot. Look at your amiibo collection.”)
When I was out and about in the afternoon, I bought a six-pack of bottles of Coke Zero. Continuing on the theme of me being a sucker and an idiot, I left the merchandise stand and bought myself a glass of Coke Zero that cost more than the six-pack did. To be fair, I think I’d have likely died of thirst otherwise. I think it’s justifiable.
I climbed more stairs and found my seat – I was on the second level, stage right, pretty far back. Good view. Not too bad for the cheapest available ticket on the day of the show. I caught most of Rival Sons and am struggling to have an opinion about them. They looked very small on that big stage with no help from lighting or a fancy set or anything. Musically, they were the quintessential opening band, perfectly acceptable but not memorable and not anything I’d go out of my way to see again. In fairness, I think I might have liked them a lot better in a smaller setting in front of a more interested audience.
At one point, the lead singer told us that there was a very powerful medicine and I predicted it was going to be “love” but it was “forgiveness” and either way, what about, like, the good Tylenols you need a doctor to prescribe? Or chemotherapy or something? I’ve never once forgiven a headache away.
The break was surprisingly short and soon we were watching some video about the hatching of some monster-type creature. The curtain fell and there was Black Sabbath and we were underway.
And honestly, it was all pretty fun. There’s something about a great big rock spectacle that you just don’t get at most of the shows I go to. Flashy lights, big screens, bright (but delightfully whisper-quiet) pyro – these guys got to use all the toys. There was even a confetti cannon for the final number, which struck me as being somewhat out of place (if still fun). Though there were times they’d superimpose fire or explosion effects on the big screen and that looked really cheesy. If you can’t make it look like a guitar is really on fire, it might be best to not bother.
For someone that seemed so dark and scary when I was a kid, it was weird to see Osbourne using all the standard frontman tricks. I mean, this guy once bit the head off a live bat on stage – or maybe he didn’t but people believed he did, which is just as good (better if you’re the bat) – so it was funny to see him doing all the “Let me see your hands!” stuff. “Make some noise! I can’t hear you! I’m gonna count to three and I want to hear you all scream! Come on, Edmonton did better than that last night, you can’t let them show you up!”
I’m paraphrasing, of course. There were more swears.
Musically, it was apparent that these guys know what they’re doing. I often say I can’t tell when a musician is just messing around or when they’re actually good, but “actually good” was on display here. Everyone got plenty of chances to show off, especially the drummer who played 10-15 minutes of solos in place of an intermission. As for Ozzy’s voice, he sounded like Ozzy. Fine by me. Ask someone with more of a frame of reference if you want details.
You will not be surprised to hear that they played the three songs I know. War Pigs came fairly early on, and Iron Man was first up after the drum solo break. And, um… Into The Void? Is that a song? What about Snowblind? Those are things I think Ozzy said, but I was also pretty sure at one point he said “this next tune is called ‘Where Are My Boobs'” so there’s a chance I wasn’t hearing him correctly. I mean, that’s not a good topic for a song. They’re right where you left them, Ozzy.
After leaving the stage, Ozzy could be heard saying “if you want us to come back, you better chant “one more song, one more song.” Not only was it obvious – even to me who knows nothing – that it was going to be Paranoid, but it was brilliant positioning on his part. You can’t disappoint people with a one-song-only encore if you made them ask you for it beforehand.
The band took their final bow and I took off. I headed towards Shoppers Drug Mart to grab some padded envelopes so I could mail out these CDs, but alas, you can only buy them from the post office and the post office wasn’t open. But it wasn’t a wasted trip – I got a giant bag of Chicago mix popcorn, which I completely annihilated as soon as I got back to my grandma’s place. I was absolutely ravenous for some reason.