For a guy who howls about death, destruction and related Beelzebubbery, Black Sabbath front man Ozzy Osbourne is quite the chipper cheerleader. As his iconic crew sludged through the ominous opening gloom of War Pigs at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Monday, the singer busted out palsied jumping jacks and shouted, "Everybody clap your (bleepin') hands!"
Hooray? Really? Sure, why not.
Never mind the images of goose-stepping and warmongering flashing on video screens behind him, Ozzy was giddy to be heading this reunion of Britain's most influential metal outfit. The 64-year-old rock icon — a man who has routinely taunted death with a besotted lifestyle that would make Keith Richards shudder — was even digging our balmy late-July climes.
"It's (bleepin') hot down here, man," hollered the man who once snorted a line of fire ants. "And you know what? I (bleepin') love it!"
Oh, Ozzy, you demented, utterly profane rascal.
With the band's original guitarist (the forever-underrated shredder Tony Iommi) and original bassist (secret weapon Geezer Butler) making a glorious racket by his side, the Ozzman Cometh threw a head-bangin' party.
It was lyrically, musically dense, Satan spreading his wings and all that foofaraw. And yet, thanks to Ozzy's "I love you, man!" refrain, the two-hour show was also fun and, oddly enough, light-hearted, never mind the blood-splattered footage and haunted-house backdrop that seemingly sprang from the mind of Tim Burton.
Ozzy's voice alternated between untouched by time (the life-affirming Iron Man) and a lifeless drone (the head-scratching Into the Void). And yet despite his hit-or-miss vocal delivery, he's such a magnetic personality, he never lost the vociferous crowd of nearly 14,000 fans.
Although original drummer Bill Ward sat out this tour due to contractual squabbles, timekeeper-for-hire Tommy Clufetos filled in with tub-thumping gusto, including a drum solo that injected new life into that weary concert staple.
And the show stayed artistically dynamic thanks to Iommi, who looks like Carlos Santana's older CIA-operative brother. Iommi is a walking health hazard, and yet his reinforced riffs and nimble playing were often jaw-dropping, especially on new cuts End of the Beginning and Age of Reason, both from latest Sabbath record 13, the band's first No. 1 seller in the United States.
Sabbath has been chugging since the late '60s, but their ability to start a musical rumble, starting with Iommi's rabbit-punch licks, is still something to behold. The show was nothing less than a lesson in slick sonic metallurgy. Listen up, junior metalheads. You could learn something here.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.