Black Sabbath @ Madison Square Garden (2/25/2016)

Logo - Black Sabbath

Artist: Black Sabbath
Venue: Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)
Opener: Rival Sons
Date: 2/25/2016
Label: Universal Music

In 1968, the foundations of Heavy Metal music was formed by four Birmingham, England mates under the moniker of Black Sabbath and it was then that the thunder began to resound. Now, almost fifty years later after nineteen studio albums, the three original founding members have embarked on what’s been labelled as “The End” tour. Yes at the end of this tour, its looking like the music world at large can thank Black Sabbath for a very inspirational Metal career. They would book a single night at the famed Madison Square Garden which sold out almost immediately after going on sale. A second show was added for the Thursday preceding it which is the one I am discussing below. If you were among the approximately 18 thousand Metal fans and I, you already know just how awesome this event was. If you were home watching the Facebook status updates and hoping for YouTube postings, please read on for my thoughts on the experience.

madison square garden, black sabbath, sold out show
Black Sabbath is SOLD OUT in NYC

Opening the show would be Earache Records recording artist Rival Sons who are a band that I have seen a few times at this point. I’m a fan for sure and consider them one of the better groups out on the circuit today. They’ve been selling out venues on their own in terms of places like Gramercy Theatre and Irving Plaza where I have caught them doing their thing and it was great to find them supporting the mighty Black Sabbath. Fronted by lead singer Jay Buchanan, the band features a great and bluesy guitar slinger in Scott Holiday and they would deliver their musical goods with tunes off the 2014 release “Great Western Valkyrie”. I didn’t catch all of the titles that they delivered because I was just getting into the brief set but I was keen on observing just how they were going over with the fans of Sabbath. From what I was seeing around me in the mostly packed at the time MSG, was a crowd that was for the most part smiling and applauding after each of the bands songs ended. This was nice to see because a Sabbath crowd can be a difficult one based on the overall demographic. Some of the older fans there are only interested in Sabbath and could care less about who is opening up the show. To those fans its often a waste of time but perhaps they felt this was a step up from the tour where the Metal Legends had a DJ set by Andrew WK happening before they played. I loved how they sounded this evening and feel that they just might have walked away with a few more fans to their music when all was said and done. That is never a bad thing. I can only stress that if you were someone who enjoyed this part of the night that you dig deeper into their works and try to catch one of their upcoming headlining shows. They usually play about 2 hours at these shows. Tonight they played about 45 minutes and since their set was very minimal in terms of décor they were off the stage as the arena was prepped for Sabbath’s arrival.

black sabbath,
The Curtain
black sabbath
Black Sabbath Have Arrived In NYC

The band was set to go on at a prompt 8:45 and advance rumors were that a couple of numbers had been dropped from the set due to Ozzy not feeling all that well. To be honest I would prefer a slightly shorter performance as opposed to a cancelled one. The large curtain spanning the stage sported the Black Sabbath logo and became our screen as a visual of a demonic presence came to life before our eyes and suddenly they were here – Metal’s forefathers, the mighty Black Sabbath who started it all off tonight with the song that bore their name. The rousing cheers from the multitudes was on par with their amplified equipment and you just knew that the band felt this energy on the stage with them as note after crushing note was brought to life. Ozzy was sounding great and didn’t give me any impression that he was ill anymore and to be quite honest, if there even was a pause or a lapse in a line during the songs, the whole audience was singing along with him word for word and it would have been impossible to notice. Tonight’s show was going to be a live greatest hits presentation and while I would have enjoyed some inclusions from their not too long ago released “13” album, I wasn’t going to argue about it. My vantage point for the night was on the side of guitar god Tony Iommi and this view also gave me a great visual of drummer Tommy Clufetos who was touring with the band instead of their founding player Bill Ward. Once “Fairies Wear Boots” and “After Forever” had passed us by I had to say that the tunes were in very capable hands. Sure I would have loved to have Bill be a part of this final go round but it was not to be and we should move on from the complaining about it. Clufetos was showcasing some serious skills on the massive kit and he was propelling the legends that stood before him through tune after tune. I’m going to add that I was pretty sure Geezer Butler was finding the drummer in complete lock with his thunderous bass riffs tonight. Talk about bass notes that make your body shake when they hit a certain level. Wow.

black sabbath, black sabbath concert photos
Black Sabbath by Ken Pierce (2016)

Though I am a drummer myself in terms of instrument I could not help myself from being hypnotized by the riffmaster Tony Iommi. His sound was on point tonight and just cutting us with waves of sound that showcased why he has inspired so many thousands of guitar players over the years. Clearly, the world of Heavy Metal guitar would be a different thing had he not first offered up what he gave us. This was a master class from the original master and I realize that I sound like I am gushing but drummers seldom do that based on our attention span. Thinking back on my own live experience with Sabbath I had to say that historically speaking I had only ever seen them twice before and one of those times was when it was only Iommi in the lineup (he had Eric Singer, Ray Gillan and Dave Spitz with him that time for the “Seventh Star tour). The other was during a very brief Ozzfest set so you can understand why tonight was having such a positive Metal effect on me since this was a lengthy, more comprehensive classic set. Ozzy kept the chatter to a minimum with humble thanks and plenty of “I Love You All” to the crowd as opposed to long winded diatribes. There was no need for this from the Prince Of Darkness tonight because it was understood by all in attendance that this band loved the fans as much as we loved them. “Snowblind” found a lot of people bopping and doing air drums during key points and yes I did that to but it felt like the arena was going to explode when the powerful and resounding notes of “War Pigs” began. I’m pretty sure that the people walking on the avenues outside of the building could hear us all singing along with them.

black sabbath, black sabbath concert photos
Black Sabbath by Ken Pierce (2016)

When it came to the part of the set for “Rat Salad” we were treated to a thundering drum solo by Clufetos who proved to the room that he had some serious chops. I knew this going in of course and am happy to see just how much life he brings to these classics in the live sense. The MSG setup for Sabbath also had two giant screens on opposing sides of the stage and video was being broadcast over them. I am not sure if this was also being captured for posterity and eventual video use going forward but I sure hope so because this was proving to be one of the best shows I had seen in months. “Children Of The Grave” was another absolute favorite of mine and while I might have liked to see “Never Say Die” delivered or maybe even “Sweet Leaf” I was not going to complain at all about the set list. Osbourne would say “Goodnight” after that one but you knew it wasn’t over until they gave us “Paranoid” and of course this would be the closing number for the absolutely crushing set. Tonight Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Tommy had given New York City fans the first of two proper farewells and it was nothing short of mind-blowing. Sometimes based on the roar of the crowd it was hard to hear Ozzy speak but one of the things that rings clearly to me was his saying “Thank you for my life” which I felt was one of the most positive things I had ever heard a performer say to his audience. I cannot recall ever hearing this in any of the 1500 or so shows that I have seen over the years and to Ozzy I respond simply with a humble “You’re welcome”. As the guys took their bows and threw guitar picks and sticks to the fans close enough to snag them the screens behind them said “The End”. I’m sure some of the fans who were coming to the show on Saturday were smiling to themselves thinking “not just yet guys you have one more in my book”. Ozzy introduced everyone even though there was really no need in doing so for three of their number but it was needed for Tommy who many just didn’t take the time to know yet and hidden from sight and stage, their keyboardist for the tour Mr. Adam Wakeman. He is the son of the legendary Rick Wakeman from YES. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Wakeman popped his head out from behind a curtain for a hot second and then was gone. If you blinked you missed him.

black sabbath, black sabbath concert photos
Black Sabbath by Ken Pierce (2016)

It’s without question that I had a great time at this show from the moment it began until the moment it ended. Actually the fun for me started hours before with good friends in life and from the scene at a rocking area pub where the Sabbath and other Metal was playing while numerous toasts to the band along with past show stories were exchanged. It was the perfect example of Metal fans being community and brothers and sisters of the thunder. I’d have it no other way. Hopefully some of you are catching the show on Saturday night or on one of the remaining US dates before it’s all been said and done. I know I will be there on Saturday and I am already counting the minutes and not focusing on my other tasks of the day. Perhaps I will document that show as well or perhaps I will just concentrate on rocking out. Only time will tell. Thank you Black Sabbath for kicking this stuff into gear. Without your efforts I cannot imagine what we would be listening to.

The band had tons of shirts on sale along with a special edition CD for the tour only called “The End”. This disc was made up of four live tracks and four studio numbers left over from the “13” recording sessions. It had a hefty $30 price tag for something with so simple a packaging but sadder still was the fact that no merchandise spots I passed had any left. One had to wonder if the Saturday crowd was going to find them available at all. I guess there is always eBay unless you are hitting one of the remaining shows and they manufacture some more. Black Sabbath has also recently released expanded editions of their self-titled debut “Black Sabbath” along with “Master Of Reality”, “Paranoid” and “Past Lives” which now come as double disc editions. I’ve embedded links to below to aid you in your procurement of these revamped classics.

Full Black Sabbath Photo Gallery:

Set List:
1. Black Sabbath
2. Fairies Wear Boots
3. After Forever
4. Into the Void
5. Snowblind
6. War Pigs
7. Behind the Wall of Sleep [with ‘Wasp’ intro]
8. N.I.B. [with ‘Bassically’ intro]
9. Hand of Doom
10. Rat Salad @Info[with drum solo]
11. Iron Man
12. Dirty Women
13. Children of the Grave
14. Paranoid
15. Zeitgeist @Tape

Here are just a couple of examples of the multitudes in attendance this evening. Were you among us on this night?

black sabbath fans, madison square garden, sold out show
Black Sabbath Fans are Legion
black sabbath fans, madison square garden, sold out show
Black Sabbath Fans are Legion

Official Website:
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2 thoughts on “Black Sabbath @ Madison Square Garden (2/25/2016)”

  1. Great review; I was at the Saturday show; and they sounded amazing; and you totally captured the vibe of the show with your words and review; 1500; shows;,wow and I thought I went to a lot of shows. Great Job.

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