As a teenager immersing myself in the world of heavy metal, I was under the impression that there was only one real Black Sabbath, that being the one fronted by Ozzy Osbourne. That's what everyone said, or so it seemed. The other Sabbath incarnations were just pretenders, pale imitations of the original.
It wasn't until I heard the title track from the 1981 album The Mob Rules that I understood just how good Black Sabbath was without Ozzy. In fact, the second singer for Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, belted out some powerful tunes over three studio albums and a live album (another live album from the early 80s was released this year). Dio's tenure with Sabbath began in 1979, when, according to Tapio Keihänen, guitarist Tony Iommi invited Dio to replace Ozzy. Their first meeting together produced the song "Children of the Sea," and after that, two studio albums followed. The first, Heaven and Hell, was released in 1980, and the next came out the following year. That one had the song that was so influential on my interest in the band.
Although Dio and Iommi/Geezer Butler had a falling out in 1982, the band regrouped again in the early 90s and produced one more album, Dehumanizer, before the same problems caused them to break apart. But time heals wounds, specifically a decade or so, and so the band has reunited again to promote a best of collection from the Dio albums. As the Ozzy incarnation is currently "together," this version of Sabbath decided to tour under the nom de metal "Heaven and Hell." Bill Ward, original drummer for Sabbath up through Heaven and Hell, decided to bow out, so Vinny Appice (Mob Rules and Dehumanizer) took over.
Needless to say, as soon as I heard about this, I was giddy as a school girl on Amphetamines. When I had the opportunity to buy a ticket, I did. The fact that Megadeth, another favorite of mine, was one of the opening acts was icing on the cake. Sadly, my seat was directly in line with a tower of amplifiers, so my vision of about 1/3 of the stage was obscured. If the music wasn't so good, I would have been extremely pissed. Instead, I was just mildly agitated.
The first act was Machine Head, a band I am not into. They were serviceable, which is all I can really ask. They didn't suck, but they didn't interest me enough for me to go out and listen to their songs. Here is a video from that show where the Oakland grinders churned out an unknown (to me) song from a very short set -
Next up was Megadeth, sans long long longtime bassist Dave Ellefson. I saw Megadeth on the Maximum Rock tour way back in 2000, when they were touring with Motley Crue. Funny how just ten years earlier, the two bands would never be seen on the same stage together, as one was glam/pop metal and the other was thrash metal. Yes, a precedent had been set with Guns N Roses and Metallica in 1992, but by then Metallica was becoming a pale relic of what they were. In any event, I guess Crue and Deth decided that just lasting through the 90s while still playing riffs was sufficient for them to get together and celebrate rock and roll. Anthrax was supposed to be on that 2000 tour as the opener, but Motley Crue kicked them off for financial reasons, which actually cost me two opportunities to see that band (Anthrax was also supposed to go to my then hometown inbetween Maximum Rock dates).
Blah blah blah, the moral of the story is Megadeth kicked a lot of ass back then. This time around, the band was proficient, but they seemed to lack the energy of early incarnations. Everyone except Dave Mustaine is a newcomer to the band, which might explain it. I heard comments in the audience saying that the band really shred, so maybe I was just harboring high expectations. Maybe their 2000 tour was so good it makes a normally great show look ho-hum in comparison. Here's the classic "Hangar 18" live in Philly -
I was a little bummed that Megadeth didn't perform one of my favorite songs, "In My Darkest Hour," but the theme of their set seemed to include their political songs. In any event, by that time I was all set for Black Sabbath, alias Heaven and Hell.
I had never seen Sabbath live before, and this was a thrill. Iommi is a king, a master of riffs, and Butler still thuds out those throbbing basslines. And Dio, what to say about Dio that hasn't already been said? He can sing like the best of them, or even better than the best of them. If you had to pick the three best vocalists in metal, going with Dio, Halford and Dickinson would be a very strong choice. It's hard to argue.
Seeing one of my favorite bands from my youth perform live was simply wild, especially considering that I never expected I would ever have the chance to do so. The set was comprised entirely of Dio era songs, which is good because I love those tunes and Dio never really handled the Ozzy material all that well. Their vocal styles are vastly different, and they don't cross over well. Besides which, it gave me a chance to hear such classics as "Computer God" and the aforementioned "The Mob Rules."
H&H also played two of three new numbers from their compilation album, which were "Shadow of the Wind" and the amazing "The Devil Cried." I had listened to the songs before the show, but hearing them live and performed with such majesty really drew me into them. I listened to "Devil" a bunch of times afterwards, and I really appreciate just how good a song it is. It is definitely up there in the Sabbath pantheon.
If you like metal, I have nothing but high regards and recommendations for the Dio-era Sabbath material. If you have the opportunity to see Iommi, Dio, Butler and Appice (who puts on a nice drumo solo) play together for perhaps their last tour together, do yourself a favor and check them out.