Black Sabbath’s bittersweet farewell of glitter and doom

Black Sabbath's bittersweet farewell of glitter and doom

Jamie Lloyd, Staff

Heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath made a stop in Dallas last Wednesday during their final North American tour, delivering fans an unforgettable show to remember them by.

The lights cut to black in the outdoor arena. The fiery letters “Black Sabbath” momentarily shined in the darkness, and soon gave way to a montage of ominous church bells and sounds of trickling rainwater.

Figures in black filed onto the stage, one by one. At first they appeared blazing white in the spotlight: singer and reality-TV star Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Tommy Clufetos, and guitarist Tony Iommi. The hush in the crowd was suddenly broken by the thunderclap of monstrous power chords ripping from a Gibson SG. An eerie yet all-too-familiar voice rose from the gloom: “What is this that stands before me?” it asked.

The answer to Osbourne’s question came from a jam-packed pavilion of 16,000 people hanging on to his every word. For any outside observer, this could have been mistaken as a religious ceremony, a mass of adoration, a place of worship, given the fervent energy and reverence exuded by every audience member.

From the eponymous opening number “Black Sabbath,” the heavy metal legends continued to fire on all cylinders despite the wear and tear of their latest years: original drummer Bill Ward leaving the band because of contractual differences, Osbourne’s recent relapses into drugs, and most famously Tony Iommi’s battle with cancer. However, it was Iommi and Osbourne that showed no signs of slowing down, as the singer launched the band into another Sabbath classic, “Fairies Wear Boots.” Osbourne, a man who looked worse for wear a mere three years ago, appeared to have been revitalized by the Dallas heat. He looked for any excuse to dash around the stage, shouting “Let me see those hands!” and “I love you all!” between some of Sabbath’s gloomiest lyrics.

Osbourne could easily be the candidate for heavy metal’s first hype man as he took it upon himself to make the audience participate and have a good time. The self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness brought back his routine of baptizing the crowd with buckets of water, and even peeled off his shirt during the song “Snowblind” (something he hasn’t done onstage since the mid-2000s), a side effect of the Dallas humidity, no less.

Interwoven with Osbourne’s stage antics is the musical underbelly of Sabbath featuring Butler’s galloping bass playing and the blood-chilling riffs of Iommi on classics like “Into the Void,” “Hand of Doom,” and the ultimate fan-favorite “Iron Man.” These three original members combined to make a holy musical trinity on the anthem “War Pigs”—where Osbourne performed a seven minute duet with over 16,000 sweaty Sabbath fans—an unforgettable highlight of the night.

The 100-minute spectacle was not always perfect—but it certainly didn’t need to be. Age becomes an inevitable liability when playing songs live that were recorded over forty years ago, as there were some expected wrinkles in the band’s performance; however the few blunders the band made only lent to a more raw and realistic concert experience. For Black Sabbath’s long-time fans and dedicated followers, it was the bittersweet farewell they had always dreamed of.

After an encore of “Paranoid,” the band members slowly made their curtain call, the last being heavy metal maestro Tony Iommi, a light in the black as he passed through the limelight and faded into the backdrop. And just like that, the band was gone as quickly as they appeared, and left behind the phrase “The End” in violet letters emblazoned over a burning earth with heavy metal imagery and doomsday overtones intact.
Just like they intended.