| November 24, 2010 | Comments (501)

Knowing that rising teen star Justin Bieber had played the Bell Centre stage twenty-four hours earlier in Montreal took the edge off as thousands of fans anticipated Rob Halford and Ozzy Osbourne last night; that, and a handful of mediocre albums and a reality show or two between career peaks. The aging legends’ Canadian tour brought the two Brits to Montreal – a city whose metal fans are just as raucous as its’ Habs supporters. The praised metal vocalist Rob Halford played a selection of songs from the Judas Priest, Fight, and his solo ‘Halford’ project – having just released Halford IV: Made of Metal. Although he roused a handful of people in the first row out of their seats with Diamonds and Rust, few seemed moved by his solo material – the track Made of Metal, complete with a backdrop of a car, seeming shallow and clichéd in contrast with his earlier work. Despite a poor reception, Halford proved that, although his songwriting knack may be fading, his four octave vocal range hasn’t – distinct and intact after years of playing huge shows, the vibe in the arena was almost spiritual as he praised the crowd of devout metal for keeping the faith.

The setup between Ozzy and Halford’s sets was brief – giving concert goers just enough time to grab an eleven dollar beer and stumble over steep bleachers before Ozzy’s voice (not nearly as articulate or well accented as Halford’s) boomed out from behind the stage, asking if we were ready to get crazy. The huge screen immediately lit up to show… Ozzy’s face on characters in scenes from Avatar, Jersey Shore, and The Hangover? The MTV-geared kitsch clashed horribly with the words OZZY, the same letters infamously etched into Osbourne’s knuckles, that crowned the stage.

I watched, jaw dropped, and realized why Heaven and Hell was the first Sabbath record I found hunting through my father’s vinyl collection. I cringed as I saw Ozzy taking on Beyoncé’s role in Lady Gaga’s Telephone, and almost cried as Ozzy’s portrayal of Edward from Twilight flashed an unsuspecting Bella with his inexplicably female torso.

The crazier you go, the longer I’ll fucking play! Ozzy promised before launching into Bark at the Moon. It was during the ferocious Mr. Crowley that Ozzy busted out the foam gun and launched the spray into the first few rows of the audience, as he’s been doing early on in the show, much to the chagrin of photographers nationwide. He then turned the hose onto himself, and encouraged the audience to clap by raising his hands in action over his head, but somehow wound up looking like he was trying to do jumping jacks. At almost sixty-two… fucking million (to quote Ozzy himself) this seemingly strenuous physical activity was worrisome for rock star and audience alike. I was concerned about the rest of the concert, since there was an air of desperation around Ozzy’s performance – in high school, have you ever been to a party someone’s parents showed up to? And, instead of taking the age-appropriate action of busting it, they crushed a beer can on their forehead? Which just made everyone somewhat worried and mostly uncomfortable? My own atypical high school experience aside, seeing Ozzy attempt to head bang onstage was kind of like that.

His voice – never as pristine or strong as Halford’s – seemed strained and earned the singer feedback during Suicide Solution, and I was beginning to question the going-price of the concert ticket. Until Ozzy left the stage at the end of Rat Salad, and allowed his touring band a solid twenty minutes on stage while he… took a power nap?

Anyways, his absence allowed greek guitar (is it too early to call him God?) Gus G. to execute an excellent, ten minute long solo. Just so you know what type of chops this guy’s wielding, the man dropped out of Berkley’s music program to dedicate himself to metal, and the flame tattoos on his right forearm are completely fitting for the type of riffs the man can execute. Gus G. is the type of guitarist who, after you watch for more than five minutes, you know you are seeing a legend in the making. After G.’s sonic assault, Tommy Clufetos’s drum set was raised from the stage to allow for his feature.  Clufetos has serious credibility as a drummer, having played with Ted Nugent and Rob Zombie. His departure from the latter’s group led to some clear resentment on Zombie’s part, as evident in this July video interview with Artisan news that you can check out here. It is interesting to note that Zombie consistently blew Ozzy out of the water while opening for Ozzy on their 2007/2008 tour.

Metal dramatics to the side, Clufetos proved himself to be as nasty on the kit as Gus G. is on the fret board, and when a suspiciously well-rested Ozzy returned to the stage, the band killed it with a rendition of Iron Man that was so hot I think most of the arena echoed the sentiments of the man in front of me who lit a cigarette immediately afterwards. The rest of the set was fantastically put together and executed, but Ozzy started to look a little more haggard than usual during Into the Void, and slightly more reluctant to encourage the crowd to go crazy as the audience and his backup band seemed capable of another hour or more. Ozzy looked like he would have been content ending the night with Mama, I’m coming home, but the crowd’s energy forced him onstage for four more songs, until he forcibly ended the night with Paranoid.

All in all, fans left happy and buzzing about the show. For those of you considering purchasing a ticket for the second leg of the tour, keep in mind that the level at which you enjoy Ozzy and Halford is directly related to your personal opinions regarding old and new, original lineup versus solo artist. Halford still has his pipes, Gus G. and Clufetos are skilled enough to make up for a tacky foam gun and intro video, while concert halls are full of older rock icons re-living their glory days. The sinister quality underlying the music last night serves as a reminder to listeners of a time where metal had more bite than bark, which is a lesson worthy of a service charge or two, but you need to be willing to sit (or headbang) your way through some cringe worthy reminders that the gents are past their prime.


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