After a quick pit stop at the hotel after arriving in Kansas City, the first order of business is to meet the VIP group and head into the Sprint Center for BLACK SABBATH's soundcheck. VIP Nation have this thing down to a military science so the rules are spelled out upfront: no personal photos and all cell phones are to be handed in to be returned after the meet and greet. Our group is about 15 people - one of the smaller ones according to our hosts. We are also handed our "goodie" bag with a beautiful limited edition history of BLACK SABBATH book.
The Sprint Center is a nice modern arena that's been fairly recently built and it has terrific acoustics. The first band member to appear onstage for the soundcheck is drummer Tommy Clufetos - who is a very affable guy. He answers questions about playing with SABBATH and his previous gigs like Alice Cooper while testing the mic levels on his kit. Then the real excitement kicks in - Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi nonchalantly stroll out and Iommi promptly launches into the riff from "Symptom Of The Universe". As if that wasn't badass enough, the second thing he plays is the devastating heavy part of "Megalomania"! Ozzy's range has long since diminished to the point where these songs cannot be played live, so hearing them - even in instrumental form - is a major treat. We also get a "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" teaser and then Ozzy comes out for one song - a run through of "Iron Man". Of the classic members, Iommi is the most playful and friendly with a permanent grin whilst Geezer is quite serious. Ozzy is actually off on his own planet but nice enough.
Next up is the meet and greet and we are herded into a room and put in front of a huge BLACK SABBATH banner and posed with Geezer, Tony and Ozzy. I'm sort of obsessed with Iommi so I end up kind of leaning in on him and leaving Geezer and Ozzy sort of isolated. It's funny when you look at the pic. The guitarist wishes me a happy birthday after I tell him it's my big 50 and he's a lovely bloke. It's all fairly rushed but the soundcheck alone and meeting Tony make it all worthwhile.
After a quick dinner and some drinks at the VIP bar, the show is on. Openers RIVAL SONS are a decent blues based ZEP act, but nothing remarkable. In the arena, the crowd is insanely pumped waiting for SABBATH to come on. Turns out this VIP thing has landed me dead center on the floor in the second row. Holy shit.
After a cool video intro with flames and lava and a massive demon, those church bells toll and the curtain rises to BLACK SABBATH playing their signature tune "BLACK SABBATH". The band sound fantastic and while Ozzy starts off a bit shaky, the use of down-tuning makes him sound pretty good. He'll get better as the show progresses. The set list is very much a straightforward greatest hits/classic deep cuts mix with only "Dirty Women" from the "Technical Ecstasy" album to represent the latter half of their Ozzy output. Geezer puts in a particularly strong performance tonight - his bass solo is outstanding. Being this close also allowed me to get a close look at his playing style which has him "slapping" the strings rapid fire. Amazing.
Ozzy has always been a bit of a clown onstage so we get the usual exhortations to "go crazy" and the jumping jacks and the pinwheeling arms and sing alongs. But Tony is the real star of the night. He's pretty much the primary architect of modern heavy metal and tonight he's got the chops to prove it. Whether it's the monstrously clanking "Into The Void" or the nimble sonic blast of "After Forever" this cancer survivor and living legend just delivers one killer riff after another. There's a touch of the ham to the man as well - Iommi is smiling all night and likes to give a slight nod of the head to the folks down front screaming his name. The biggest surprise of the night is a fantastic "Hand Of Doom" - oozing slimy musical evil one minute and then pepping up into a jazzy rave up near the end. We also get a strong "War Pigs" and a nifty jammy "Behind The Wall Of Sleep". The show utilizes a fair amount of smoke and shooting fire jets so by the inevitable encore of "Paranoid" we are all pretty hot and wiped out in the front row!
For SABBATH's final hurrah this was pretty damned impressive. Anyone on the fence about checking this out when it resumes for its final leg should get OFF the fence. Great show and I gotta say this a birthday I'll never forget.
Fairies Wear Boots
Into the Void
Behind the Wall of Sleep
Hand of Doom
Children of the Grave
Encore - Paranoid