Matt Hooper reviews Black Sabbath’s second to last show ever
Rock giants Black Sabbath returned to their home town on 2nd February to complete the first of their final two Birmingham shows. The End tour marks the last time the band will travel together and they created a sense of finality that made the occasion a special one. For over a year, Sabbath have toured with Rival Sons, who are more than just a support band: the Californian rock band have been described as the future of rock and roll and their performance at the Genting Arena did not disappoint.
As a venue, the Genting Arena is perhaps not as large as other arenas on the tour, but the sound quality of the bands was unmatched. The venue was full and erupted when the lights went black and the curtain was dropped to the sound of ‘Black Sabbath’, the opening track which brought a haunting guitar riff followed by a fast-paced closing.
They left no classic out of their setlist and offered a nice surprise with ‘Under the Sun’, rarely performed by the Birmingham legends. The guitar solo showcased the brilliance of Tony Iommi, who remained consistent throughout the entire night with his masterclass guitaring ability. The sheer presence of Iommi demonstrated that playing the guitar is second nature to him as he would often smile and wave to the crowd whilst still playing with the other hand.
One sequence saw the band play through ‘Into the Void’, ‘Snowblind’ and ‘War Pigs’. Frontman Ozzy Osbourne made remarks about each song but not in a way that many could understand. He spoke with an American accent throughout the night but would often slip into his Brummie roots, mumbling, “Nobody understands a word I’m saying”. As a frontman, Osbourne does not have the presence he used to and was often edging onto his microphone and trying to get the crowd to raise their hands. But despite this, his vocals were impressive and his voice was still strong.
Whilst most of the focus was on the genius of Tony Iommi, Osbourne directed the attention to bassist Geezer Butler, who opened ‘N.I.B’ with a wah-infused bass solo before the rest of the band came in with the thundering riffs and thrashing drumming.
Before finishing ‘Hand of Doom’, Osbourne told the crowd he was “taking a break” before abruptly leaving the stage. This allowed Iommi, Butler and drummer Tommy Clufetos to jam to ‘Supernaut’ amongst other Sabbath classics. Iommi and Butler then left the stage and Clufetos erupted into a six-minute drum solo, impressing the crowd with his incredible ability.
He ended his solo with a recognisable drum beat that got the crowd clapping with anticipation. The band returned to the stage and coolly transitioned into ‘Iron Man’. This was shortly followed by ‘Children of the Grave’, which saw hundreds of over-sized purple balloons drop from the ceiling. The crowd bounced the balloons around whilst Sabbath ran through the racing beat of the song. As the balloons found their way onto the stage, Iommi casually raised his hand mid-song to punch one away. The smile on his face throughout the entire night suggested the ending of the tour is something he will miss, but given his recent health issues, it is understandable for the band to retire.
However, this was not the end just yet. The encore saw none other than ‘Paranoid’ as Iommi performed another world-class guitar solo alongside the enthusiastic vocals of Osbourne and impressive basslines of Butler. In place of balloons, confetti and smoke poured from the ceiling this time before the song finally ended. As the band bowed to the Birmingham crowd, fireworks went off behind them as Osbourne thanked the crowd for their support.
Black Sabbath are considered legends of rock and music in general, and they showed just why they deserved this praise with this penultimate show. With The End tour set to come to a close on 4th February, the Birmingham rock legends leave a legacy behind that is matched only by the elite stars of music.