Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Ozzy Osbourne w. Finger Eleven and Voi-vod.
Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta
June 4th, 2003


Concert review by JP (1.5 / 5)

Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne, shown in this promo photo, would not allow local photographers in to his Saddledome show June 4.

We have a special twist for you, the reader, with this concert review. We are pleased to present you with two reviews of the concert. On June 4th, a friend and I attended an Ozzy concert. We have quite different perspectives on the show and we thought it might be fun to demonstrate how two people standing side by side watching the same show can have very different experiences. Kevin Woron is the host of Megawatt Mayhem, North America's longest running heavy metal radio show, and will be our special guest reviewer.

It was a beautiful, warm, summer night, a perfect evening for a sold-out Ozzy concert. My first impressions were the lack of 'metal' fans and metal shirts. In hindsight it was a pretty mainstream type of event with people of all ages, shapes and sizes attending not much leather or black T-shirts.

Voi-vod started right on time and ripped through six songs, five of which came from the new CD. There were a few thousand people already in attendance and with a modest light show and excellent sound, Voi-vod did their best for a largely, uninterested crowd. I was pleased to see them for the first time and was amused by Snake odd but strangely compelling stage presence. I'm not a huge fan of Voi-vod in the first place and what I heard of the new CD wasn't all that good either. Most of the new songs had a stoner rock vibe, which had Newstead banging along happily in this bass-heavy element. The band ended their tight set with the far too predictable pick of Astronomy Domine. It was the one song that generated much response from the crowd. It's a sad commentary on the underground metal scene when a band of this caliber, are best remembered for a cover tune they recorded almost 15 years ago. But then again, what were they going to finish with, 'Suck Your Bone' from War and Pain? It was the only logical choice but painfully obvious.


A quick switch over and Finger Eleven hit the stage. I'd like to interject a comment. Through the evening a few people mentioned that Voi-vod was opening to give Newstead a break because of his double duty playing for Ozzy. Well, I'm calling bullshit. There is no way that lame modern rock act should have been on after Voi-Vod. It was said they paid handsomely to be on the tour. Newstead did not need the rest. Voi-vod played a subdued set for half an hour. Newstead used to play for two and half to three hours with Metallica. All of a sudden he can't do half an hour, rest for 20 minutes and do an hour and forty-five minutes? Voi-vod got the shaft by the big money.

Finger Eleven were pretty lame. In fact we left to wander around after the second song. Admittedly they were doing much less of the mallcore style, but they had virtually zero stage personality or presence. It was amusing, during the all too frequent drum and bass driven song parts, both guitarists would jump around like maniacs but when it came time to actually play their instruments (not just jump around and pose) they stopped, stood still and looked at their feet and fingers. It's amazing how two guitarists succeeded in making two guitars sound like half of one guitar! The sound was so thin, the riffs and solos were watery and uninspired. The whiny angst of the generic lead singer did nothing for me, having neither passion nor intensity. They tried but pretty much embody everything I dislike with modern rock. From me, Finger Eleven got the middle finger.

During the visit to the concourse we marveled at the $6.50 price tag for the average-sized, luke-cold foamy, domestic beer and the hefty $45.00 price tag for T-shirts. Finally it was show-time we were pretty much dead center on the floor thirty rows or so back. I'm going to break this section into three parts, the bad, the good, and the final verdict. Let's get the bad out of the way first.

The Bad: 1/5

Ozzy's done. He is a mumbling, doddering, incoherent old man who has no place on stage and it was painful to see him dragged out. His mind is gone and is obviously unaware of his surroundings. It's a shame because he has been working out and while his body is strong, his mind will go very soon ravaged by years of excess.

The show started, Ozzy's voice from back stage egging the crowd on with mindless stage rap. There was no rear-screen projection, no goofy, fun home movies or parodies, no explosions, nothing. He just walked onto stage and held his arms out wide to the thunderous cheers. And the band launched into War Pigs, frighteningly predictable and a poor choice to start an Ozzy SOLO concert with a slow Sabbath song.

The hour and three-quarters that followed were painful to watch at times. There was virtually no stage show. I kept waiting but no flares, no fires, no flames, no shower of sparks cascading down, no mascots, doves, bats, no risers, ramps…nothing!! It was just Ozzy leaning on his microphone stand reading from his teleprompter or hopping about like a frog. Newstead stood off on his own off to one side having a good time enjoying the buzz of being onstage with Ozzy, but clearly not as much fun as he was having with Voi-vod. Mind you this might be forgiven as it was only the second night of the mini-tour and he was probably trying to remember all the songs. Wylde, went through the motions but never really seemed to warm up until later.

Ozzy stage banter has been reduced to countless repetition of two phrases, "Let's go Fucking Crazy!" and " I Can't Hear You!" over and over and over, ad nasuem. I doubt he knew where he was only mentioning Calgary twice in the entire show. On two or three occasions when Ozzy started to mumble off, Wylde had to saunter over to Ozzy and let him know where his line was on the teleprompter. It was from a technical and intellectual perspective one of the worse stadium shows I have seen. The lights were dull, the stage boring, the performances uninspired. The songs were played without much flair, just fairly pedestrian versions of way too familiar material. As for Ozzy's voice…well… when he was remembering the words or not mumbling, his voice was shot. You could tell he was reading the lyrics the entire night and trying to remember the vocal melody forgetting on several occasions. It was pretty sad.

The Good: 4/5

I got to see Ozzy! After waiting twenty years I finally got to see the prince of darkness! At one point early on I found myself over-analyzing the show and I thought to myself, "I wish I could have seen him at the height of his power. " And then it hit me. I WAS seeing OZZY at the height of his power!! He sold out the 17,000-seat arena in just a few minutes. His band are elite, Newstead, Wylde, Bordin… all world-class musicians, you couldn't ask for a better line-up. Initially I didn't have tickets and I was thrilled to get a phone call a few hours before the show saying I could go courtesy of the good people at Universal Music Canada. It was a very nice (two-day early) birthday present and I was damn lucky just to be there! So after a moment of admonishing myself for being hypercritical, I let myself go and enjoyed the aura of the show. Once the intellectual exercise was over, I had a great time!

Ozzy had the entire arena eating out of the palm of his hand. He literally held court. He did the audience participation routine, he threw the buckets of water on people and hopped up and down like a madman. The crowd was very loud, lots of smoke (!), lots of lighters during the many ballads, everyone singing along, screaming, cheering, and even the occasional crowd surfer. I didn't see one fight and everyone was mellow and having a good, safe time.

The highlight for me was Zakk Wylde's guitar solo. He did it all, he played behind his head, played with his teeth, and he ran all over the stage, the spotlight struggling to keep up, what an incredible showman. It reminded me of what guitar heroes are really about; technical precision, flair and showmanship. He was very entertaining, even throwing part of an Eddie Van Halen solo just for fun!

His solo also made me a little sad to realize over the past 15 years how much Zakk has been wasting his talent. Over the course of three lack-luster Ozzy albums in the 90's and several uninspired BLS albums, he has done nothing really interesting or inspirational in my mind. And here he comes and rips out this amazing solo and I was almost ripping out my hair, saying, "Why Zakk, why? Why do you stick with this loser Ozzy regurgitating 25 year old Sabbath tunes and churning out crappy down-tuned, blues-rock CD's"? The answer is of course money. He will never have to worry about money and being Ozzy's guy he has the freedom to indulge in his BLS Lynyrd Skynrd thing, whether BLS makes money or not. Ask yourself if it is a coincidence the only BLS song to hit Billboard was the one with Ozzy singing on it? I think not.

Overall, it was great to remember that Zakk can actually play and although it will never happen, I still hold that glimmer of hope he will be meet his potential and expose his talent to the world with a ripping instrumental CD. In the meantime I got to see his live solo with Ozzy, so I can die a happy man.

Ozzy as a persona was great! He mooned the crowd, he snag his heart out and gave it his all. He tried to throw water on the crowd but missed, stumbled around clapping and jumping. Earlier I was being critical for his ludicrous stage raps, but then again, what the hell else is he supposed to say, "Be quiet please?" ha! ha! I certainly could ignore/tolerate even forgive the antiquated stage banter because it was OZZY. He did it first and best so it was good to see where it all came from and it gave me a sense of completion.

It was the atmosphere of a once in a lifetime spectacle that I will never forget, Ozzy ruled supreme and I was delighted to have finally seen him. It was a giant love-in and I'm glad I got to see him because he only comes to my town about once every ten years, and I don't think he'll be doing this in ten years.

The Final Decision: 1.5/5

Intellectually, technically, it was a lousy show. (1/5) Emotionally, atmospherically, it was fantastic. (4/5) So I was torn. How do I rate this concert sitting at a 5/10 or an average score of 2.5/5?

Well, the only obvious answer is the songs. I mean that is what it all really comes down to. If you strip away everything, all the stage stuff, atmosphere, the tricks and traps of the live environment and everything else, it comes down to songs. The bottom line is he only played a few of my favorite songs so he gets the ultimate thumbs down.

Ozzy played for one hour and forty-five minutes. He played 18 songs, including encores and a medley of four Black Sabbath songs. The set-list was fairly well designed in one sense. He started with a Sabbath track, (War Pigs) in the middle had the Sabbath medley and finished with a Sabbath track (Paranoid). It framed the show quite nicely.

I'll say it up front, I'm not a huge Ozzy-era Sabbath fan. So for him to start with a Sabbath tune and finish with two Sabbath tunes was disappointing to me. I like medleys a lot but the four songs in the medley I wasn't that thrilled with. He did end the concert and start the encores with a predictable but enjoyable trilogy of 'road/traveling' tunes, namely, 'Road To Nowhere', Crazy Train', and 'Mama, I'm Coming Home.' A nice touch.

That cuts us down to 14 Ozzy 'solo' era tunes. As a solo artist, he has not been very prolific. He has put out a mere eight studio albums in almost 25 years. I liked Blizzard, Dairy and No More Tears. I LOVE, Bark, Ultimate, No Rest! I didn't really like Ozzmosis or the new one. So what happens? Of the eighteen songs total, thirteen of them were written and recorded earlier than 1982! He played almost all of Blizzard. He was certainly doing a HUGE retro set. He played one cut from the new CD, and the three hit ballads from No More Tears. That was the only 90's stuff.

So the verdict: He played a mere one song from my three favorite Ozzy solo albums of all time. He played the ballad, 'Fire In The Sky' which had me absolutely delighted because it is one of my favorite Ozzy ballads of all time. For the first time in the show, the backdrop lit up and showed a simple flame pattern and the rear screen projectors showed computer generated flames. That was it. They played only one song I really, really wanted to hear. All the rest I've heard countless times on the radio, studio CD's and the five or six live releases he has out. What a let down. Nothing off Bark, nothing off Ultimate, not even one song. Why the hell didn't he do two songs from each of the eight albums, (one hit and one rare one) and throw in two (max) Sabbath tunes in the encore? That would have been a far better representation of his career.

But of course, no. I knocked a whole mark off because they just didn't play the songs I wanted to hear. I didn't have expectations that they would play all my personal favorites, but I had secretly hoped. So when all is said and done, I'm glad I went, I'm glad I didn't have to pay, I'm glad I got to finally see him and I will probably never see him again. Goodbye Ozzy. Thanks for the memories.

Concert Review by Guest Writer, Kevin Woron
(Kevin is the host of Megawatt Mayhem - North America's longest running heavy metal radio show.)

Ozzy review 3.8
Overall Concert 3.5

They came because they were curious. They came because they were devoted. Whatever the audiences' reasons, they all came for one thing at a sold-out Saddledome on a warm, early summer evening - to see Ozzy Osbourne in all his glory.

Veteran Canadian band Voivod started off the show with a solid set showcasing their return to the metal wars. For the few thousand who chose to come early, they were treated to a performance from a band that looked genuinely happy to be back. Songs like "Gasmask Revival", "Rebel Robot" and "We Carry On" were delivered with pleasure as well as thundering force in a short, six-song set. Frontman Denis "Snake" Belanger looked especially happy to be back with his mates as he clowned around during songs - even pulling out a camera to take shots of the crowd during the final song, "Astronomy Domine". Maybe they should have opened with that song, as it seemed many in the crowd came to the realization of who they were seeing when they heard it. All in all a satisfying but way too short set from a band who wanted to focus on the music, rather than the press they've been getting since Jasonic joined the band. (Voivod individual rating: 4/5.)

Another Canadian band, Finger Eleven took to the stage for the second set. As former label mates (they are signed with Sony Music Canada) of the Ozzman, it was easy to see why they were on the bill. Appealing to the younger crowd, they put on a punchy, if uninspiring set of aggressive new rock. Their only saving grace with me was that the band appears to have changed attitude, choosing to focus on the music rather than their previous, more image conscious style. That apparent change alone has me interested in hearing their upcoming release. (Finger Eleven rating: 2/5 and that's generous.)

The anticipation became palpable as the crowd, now up to full strength, eagerly awaited the final set. Would they get Ozzy, the prince of darkness, or Ozzy, the clown prince of the MTV program that bears his surname? In the end they probably got a little of both.

Make no arguments about it; this tour was a warm up for the upcoming madness that is Ozzfest. The staging was Spartan. No huge backdrops or ramps - just stacks of amplifiers surrounding the drum riser. This show could have been staged in 1983 instead of 2003 - the only acknowledgement of anything that would suggest the date was the two video screens on either side of the stage. This show was to be about the music and the man.

Even before the house lights came down, Ozzy's voice urged the crowd to "get crazy".

Then the lights dropped and out stepped the band and the madness began with the Sabbath classic "War Pigs". An appropriate opening with the recent war in Iraq and proving that some songs are indeed timeless.

What followed was a trip through the Ozzy catalogue, heavy on the early history. Oz himself could have used a little boning up as at times he seemed to mumble his way through the teleprompter on songs like "Into the Void", part of the Sabbath medley and even on "Flying High Again". But at age 54, and looking at times like the poster boy for the anti-drug campaign, you can forgive Ozzy these gaffs. And that's the entire point of it - he's Ozzy. He's always going to direct the crowd to light their lighters, clap during the bridges of songs and to "go crazier than you've ever gone in your entire life". The songs are almost secondary to watching him go through his shtick, dropping trousers and mooning the audience to prove he's still a bad ass, throwing buckets of water on the crowd, and so on.

The crowd loves it. But I felt sorry for Zakk Wylde, Mike Bordin and Jason Newsted (although it must be noted that Newsted joined only after being assured that he would be playing a lot of old Sabbath.), mostly for Wylde. Out of the 20 or so songs that made up the set and the encore, I could count only five that he helped write. I could only imagine the frustration of only getting five songs of personal note with a guitar solo (nice touch - throwing in some of Eddie Van Halen's Eruption in) but if there was any, he didn't show it. I guess years of living with the ghost of Randy Rhodes has lead to acceptance. Maybe it's my own perception of the Ozzy solo myth - that his best work has been about collaboration with some of the best guitarists in the business and not about everyone after Rhodes being a mere "hired gun". Personally, I could have done without the Sabbath medley in favour of hearing more of the Osbourne/Wylde connection.

In the end, it was a comfortable walk with a man who has seen it all, done it all and lived. Prince or clown prince, the crowd left happy getting one more chance to see the man and hear the music live - speaking more to his role as prince and knowing how to give the audience what they want than any goofy TV show does to the other.