The godfathers of metal make their Belfast bow after years of break ups, come downs and reality shows
Say what you like about godfathers of metal Black Sabbath, but things are never dull when they're around.
Over the last four decades, the Brummie legends have sued each other, survived boughts of cancer and other ailments, ingested anything and everything illegal they could get their hands on, and suffered more bust ups and break downs than the entire population of Luxembourg.
However, despite all the bitterness, bad blood and poop-filled boxes posted to ex-band members, one thing always remained pure, and that was their music. Tonight, the original line-up of singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler bring their Beelzebub-infused primitive blues to Belfast for the very first time in their 45-year history.
Opening with that famously ominous air-raid siren that signals the start of 'War Pigs', Sabbath's debut Belfast set is truly titanic. Uncompromisingly heavy and dripping with menace from the get-go, Iommi's guitar work is miraculous throughout, given that he lost the tips of two fingers as a teenager – the left-handed riff lord effortlessly proves why he is still the master of a craft that he helped create.
Master Of Reality classic 'Into The Void' is up next, and sees the band trade time signatures like a married couple would insults – hitting the mark every single time – while 'Under The Sun' sees Ozzy slinging his trademark buckets of H2O out into the crowd. At one point, he even creeps up behind a hapless bouncer and baptises him with his unholy water.
Speaking of their singer, up until the opening line of 'War Pigs' I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the former Prince of Darkness. For someone who spent his formative years idolising the bloke, it's been difficult to remain a fan of Osbourne's over the past decade or so.
His phenomenally popular reality show The Osbournes made a mockery of his career, well and truly dispelling the mystique that had surrounded a man who previously seemed downright diabolical. Combine that with his penchant for postponing gigs mere hours before they were due to happen, and let's just say that my old Bark At The Moon and Diary Of A Madman LPs have spent the last number of years gathering dust.
Hearteningly though, this evening's show sees the Sabbath frontman enjoying something of a rebirth. His voice hasn't sounded as strong in years and, tellingly, the daft red hair dye, John Lennon style glasses and sequinned sleeves have all been abandoned in favour of a more back to basics stage-wear featuring a black long sleeve t-shirt and matching trousers.
'Black Sabbath' especially sees the singer in vintage form, and the down-tuned song, which kickstarted the evergreen genre of music that is heavy metal, sounds spectacular, capturing the 8,000 strong, multi-generational audience under its spell and never letting them go.
The hook-laden 'N.I.B.' and show-stealer 'Iron Man' also showcase Ozzy at the peak of his powers, while new tunes 'Age Of Reason' and 'End Of The Beginning' suggest that this resurrection might last longer than most expected.
While former tub thumper Bill Ward's presence is certainly missed, stand-in session drummer Tommy Clufetos does an excellent job of steering the ship, and Geezer Butler – whose grandmother was from Belfast – continues to be the second coolest bassist in metal. He adds a welcome dose of doom to the likes of 'Fairies Wear Boots' and set closer 'Children Of The Grave'.
After a brief blast of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath', the four-piece finish their set with 'Paranoid', sending the faithful suitably crazy. This was the gig worth the 45-year wait. Here's hoping Sabbath won't leave it too long before they darken our door again.
Visit the Odyssey Arena website for information on forthcoming concerts.