Fans had to wonder what kind of Black Sabbath would show up Saturday night at Grant County's Gorge Amphitheatre. The ways that front man Ozzy Osbourne has beat himself up over the years have been well-documented, and his voice didn't last very long during the band's last local stop with Ozzfest in 2005.
More recently, guitarist Tony Iommi has been worse for wear as he's battled life-threatening lymphoma. And who knows how Bill Ward is? Sabbath's original drummer has been A.W.O.L. since 2011, a casualty of an ongoing contract dispute.
But any apprehension about the battle scarred Sabbath could still deliver the goods vanished during the band's bombastic opening salvo, “War Pigs.” Ozzy may not have the vocal range he once possessed during the band's '70s heyday, but he hit his marks when it counted, and he seemed to be having the time of his life as he shuffled around stage with a huge, maniacal grin.
Bassist Geezer Butler was similarly on point, shining brightest with his funky, wah-wah riffing on “N.I.B.” And touring drummer Tommy Clufetos proved himself a worthy fill in during an epic solo that followed “Rat Salad.” But the true MVP was guitar hero Tony Iommi, his prosthetically enhanced digits danced across the fretboard as he delivered some of the heaviest riffs in rock history. “Iron Man,” indeed.
The set contained most of the iconic cuts fans expected, a couple of disappointing omissions aside. (What? No “Sweat Leaf”?) Deep album cut “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes,” from 1972's “Black Sabbath, vol. 4,” was a welcome surprise. And “Age of Reason,” “God Is Dead?” and the apocalyptic “End of the Beginning” fit seamlessly into the mix. That snakebitten set Sabbath delivered at White River is a fading memory. Now here's hoping they make it back on the road again, maybe with Bill Ward next time.
Set list: War Pigs; Into the Void; Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes; Snowblind; Age of Reason; Black Sabbath; Behind the Wall of Sleep; N.I.B.; End of the Beginning; Fairies Wear Boots; Rat Salad; Tommy Clufetos drum solo; Iron Man; God Is Dead?; Dirty Women; Children of the Grave; Paranoid
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