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Black Sabbath

Live in Chicago, January 19, 1999

Review by Gary Hill

Black Sabbath really invented the genre of heavy metal, and, to this day performs the genre in a way that many have copied but none have duplicated. Although they are certainly not progressive rock, many prog fans do like Black Sabbath. Sabbath has, from time to time, shown prog tendencies in their work and many of their lyrical themes (anti-war, anti-nukes), although presented in a darker fashion by Sabbath, are shared by much progressive rock.
This tour represents the first full tour by the reunited original lineup of Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward since the 1970`s. The material covered at the show was all from the classic period of the original lineup, the most recent track being Technical Ecstasy`s Dirty Women. Highlights included Snowblind, NIB, Black Sabbath and War Pigs. One disappointing omission is the wonderful new track Psycho Man which has been receiving considerable airplay. It would have made a solid addition to the set and brought a certain freshness with it. Nonetheless, the choice of material was certainly satisfying, and all the performers showed that they really are quite talented. Although this band has always been more than the sum of its parts, all of the members are quite worthy.

Geezer Butler is really one of the most underrated bassists around. His style is far from generic, bringing in intriguing blues, jazz and even funk elements at times, and his instrumental prowess is right up there with many of the great prog bassists. He showed off those skills quite well in this show.

Tony Iommi, although never an extremely flashy guitarist, has always been one of the most tasteful in the genre. He always seems to know exactly what really fits the song. This talent, plus his precision at reproducing his work live, made for a wonderful experience live.

Ozzy Osbourne is the consummate front man. His voice was in solid form in the show, and his stage persona seems much more animated in the Sabbath setting than in his solo performances. He really seems at home here. His onstage banter and mooning of the audience, however, meant that this is really an adults only show in this reviewer`s opinion. Another complaint is that too much of the attention of the side video screens (and the audience) seemed to be on Osbourne. Taking nothing away from the man, he is a wonderful performer, there are three other extremely talented musicians in this lineup, and he is but one piece of this puzzle. The others deserve more credit as well.

Bill Ward has always had a unique drum sound and style. Much of his work seems to thunder the rhythm for the band, and what a rhythm it is. His particular drumming style is very far from the simplistic percussion of many heavy metal drummers, taking the less traveled path with out of the usual rhythmic patterns.

All in all, for long time fans of the band, this tour is a must see. It will be one of the best concerts that the fan will ever see. The band delivers a very professional, energetic, entertaining and satisfying performance, and prove why they always have been (and always will be) the ultimate heavy metal band.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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