From Nine Inch Nails' premature retirement in 2009 to the hundreds of shows Kiss has played since supposedly calling it quits in the '90s, the farewell tour is a phenomenon that rock fans have learned to take with a huge grain of salt. But seminal metal band Black Sabbath has left little doubt that this year is it, between scrapping plans to finish one more studio album and the memory of Tony Iommi's life-threatening battle with lymphoma.
"It very definitely is the end. We won't be doing it again," the influential guitarist told Rolling Stone magazine last fall.
Local Sabbath fans wondered if they'd even get a crack at witnessing the band's final tour – dubbed, simply, “The End” - as several dates were postponed leading up to Saturday night's appearance at the Tacoma Dome as front man Ozzy Osbourne battled sinusitis. But the metal gods smiled on Puget Sound, Ozzy's head cleared up, and the iconic rockers - also bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Tommy Clufetos, again filling in for the estranged Bill Ward – were able to bid farewell in style.
A demon set an urban landscape ablaze on a giant video screen that was the centerpiece of a fairly minimal stage setup, heralding the band's entrance. The quartet appeared, and the arena started to rumble with the creeping, tectonic riffs of “Black Sabbath,” a series of flash pots simmering in the background like witches' cauldrons. Fans howled with delight as Ozzy delivered the song's sinister opening salvo.
“What is this that staaaaands befoooooore me?”
If the singer still felt under the weather he didn't show it. His vocals were sharp, and he shuffled and stomped gleefully around the stage, a devilish grin pasted across his face. Iommi was a master in action, his prosthetically enhanced digits visible on the big screen as she strummed some of the most imitated riffs in rock history. Even Clufetos got his turn to shine, delivering an epic solo at the tail end of “Rat Salad.”
The set list was similar to what the band played during its previous local stop, in 2013 at the Gorge Amphitheatre, with many of the expected classics and a few deeper album cuts thrown in for good measure. The main difference was the absence of anything from the newest album, “13.” The band had been playing the “God Is Dead?” single, but that and “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” got the ax, based on recent shows, likely to preserve Ozzy's voice for the last few dates.
Sadly, favorites like “Sweet Leaf” and “The Wizard” also didn't make the cut, but what the band did deliver was more than enough to satisfy a near capacity crowd. The evening built to a big, cathartic finale with “Paranoid,” the arena showered with purple and black confetti, each piece emblazoned with the wavy typeface of the band's logo. If this was truly the band's last show in Washington, the quartet had left its fans with a night they'll never forget.
Set list: “Black Sabbath,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” “After Forever,” “Into the Void,” “Snowblind,” “War Pigs,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “N.I.B.,” “Hand of Doom,” “Rat Salad (drum solo),” “Iron Man,” “Dirty Women,” “Children of the Grave”
Opening act: Rival Sons