Sometimes a metal show is exactly what you need. The sluggo riffs, the we're-all-gonna-die (so-let's-party!) imagery, the REALLY LOUD LOUDNESS. The well-crafted stupidity of it all is good for your weary rock 'n' soul.
And there aren't two better practitioners of the escapist art form than John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne and Saul "Slash" Hudson, the well-medicated rebels of rockdom who paired for a sloppy but satisfying three-hour face-melter in front of 9,448 at the St. Pete Times Forum on Friday.
The 45-year-old Slash has hopped from band to band, but he's been loyal to one particular top hat, and it's a good thing: It obviously contains superpowers. With a thumping if generic group behind him (and singer-for-hire Myles Kennedy, from day-job band Alter Bridge, at the mike), the shaggy guitar god proved he remains a magically fluid player, his speed and blues acumen allowing him to bend and blur notes in a hypnotizing, serpentine manner.
Mixing cuts from his time in Slash's Snakepit, Velvet Revolver and, of course, Guns N' Roses, Slash bounced and posed, all while the screeching Kennedy proved to be a cloying frontman, which was made startlingly clear during GNR hits Nightrain and Paradise City. It's bad when you long for the subtlety of Axl Rose. That said, hearing Slash pick the life-affirming hook from Sweet Child o' Mine in person is something everyone should do before he or she dies.
Speaking of dying: How has Ozzy not done that yet?! Bless that bawdy British bat-biter, he's an absolute wreck, his signature stage move now a shaky hokey pokey of the damned. And yet, here's the secret behind the Prince of Darkness: At 62, and with a legendary list of suspect life decisions behind him, his searing voice is still a relatively crystalline instrument.
Ozzy can't move, but he can sing, leaning on the mike for support and sneering out the opening Bark at the Moon and thundering Black Sabbath lugs Fairies Wear Boots and War Pigs. If his shows no longer contain dark drama, at least they're ridiculously fun. During the once sinister Mr. Crowley, Ozzy sprayed thick layers of foam into the audience. To be fair, he also got himself pretty good. "I (bleepin') love you guys!" he cackled.
Although Ozzy may be creaky, his backup band was not, especially lead guitarist Gus G., a first-rate shredder reminiscent of previous sidemen Randy Rhoads and Zakk Wylde. Thanks to them, I Don't Know and Shot in the Dark packed delicious punch, and the boys were allowed to jam sans singer on Sabbath's instrumental freakfest Rat Salad. (All hail the drum solo!)
There was pyro and strobe action and, soon enough, a crowd-wide sing-along to Iron Man. Crazy Train closed the first set, and Mama, I'm Coming Home (bust out the lighters!) and Paranoid were the encores. And to the end, the hell raiser, despite his amazingly unhealthy existence, entertained with verve. Deal with the devil? Maybe. But at least Ozzy's getting his money's worth.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.