JONATHAN CHURCHILL: DEFENDING OUR ISLAND
OZZY OSBOURNE, HAMMERSMITH APOLLO
21st June 2011
It's Tuesday night at the Apollo and Ozzy's playing a seriously great set with a superb new band when suddenly the magic happens... One of those moments when you realise just how good it is to be alive and just why Heavy Metal rules the world!
The crowd is simmering, coming to the boil. Ozzy's having fun and the band are on fire but there's something missing... but it's coming... and Ozzy tells us there's one song left - but if we make a noise he'll play more.
As the chants of "Ozzy" swell and the excitement builds, suddenly it happens... the immortal cry from the Metal heavens: "ALL ABOAAAARRRRD..." and we're off. Every single person in the venue riding the Crazy Train to one of the greatest Metal moments I've witnessed in twenty years!
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Hammersmith explodes as Ozzy starts chucking buckets of water on the crowd and firing his foam hose at the front row. To my left and right grown men are jumping, shouting and singing, while the band are so on their game that every note is perfect and this incredible song, 'Crazy Train', feels bigger and louder than anything else tonight. Ozzy seems to come alive, sounding vintage, dragging the notes back from the 80s and clearly loving every moment.
And then it's over. Dark. Except Ozzy's not done. From backstage there's a roar... "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
With the crowd fit to blow the roof off the band are back for the encore. A double-punch of 'Mama I'm Comin' Home' and 'Paranoid!' It can never, ever get better than this.
With a huge emotional resonance, sheer simplicity and a massive sing-along chorus, this is one of the great power ballads. It's like being wrapped in the biggest hard rock group-hug possible. If you've ever played the version from Ozzy's 1993 'Live And Loud' at full volume, let me tell you this was better. Every note. Every drum beat and – of course - that solo!
Gus G, who had played most of the night to a small corner of the crowd, burst into life and found the notes needed as if his life depended on it, ensuring 5,000 people went home playing air guitar.
Drummer Tommy Clufetos, formerly with Rob Zombie, proved to be my hit of the night with a drumkit to die for. Front on it was large enough to look like two separate kits together, with a massive gong behind. Vintage 80s large drums and a presence to match. Very similar in style to Mike Portnoy but much heavier and harder.
Bassist Blasko and second guitar/keyboards Adam Wakeman complimented the band who – although superb all night – really came together as a unit at the end.
I've heard 'Paranoid' a thousand times and it's a great song. One of the best. But holy shit... last night it came to life like Satan roaring from hell on a Harley.
It's easy to cover a good song, but it takes a great band to bring it to life and that's what these guys did. Owning the stage at last, Gus G pulled a solo from his soul that made you forget that Tony Iommi rules this song. Then with those immortal lines... "Can you help me... occupy my brain", Ozzy sang his heart out.
Hammersmith went insane as all his vintage sound-bites came out along with more buckets of water and the foam hose: "Let me see your fucking hands". "I love you guys". "I can't HEAR you". "Go fucking crazy for me". "Everybody clap". "Raise the fucking roof – come ON".
What a Metal moment.
In life they say start well and finish better and that sums up the night. For those of you who need to know, the set-list was fantastic, including: 'I Don't Know', 'Mr Crowley', 'Shot In The Dark', 'Road To Nowhere', 'I Don't Want To Change The World', 'Suicide Solution', 'Goodbye To Romance' and the obligatory drum and guitar solos!
Black Sabbath came along for the ride too – in the guise of 'Iron Man', 'War Pigs' and 'Fairies Wear Boots', with fantastic, powerful performances from the band.
But last night belonged to the best three-song finale you will ever hear. And Ozzy's legendary status is secure. May he never retire.