No one wants to get kicked out of a show that they paid hard-earned money for, which is the only reason the seat jumpers that crept forward during Black Sabbath's performance have any teeth left. No less than ten of you creeps climbed over the seat behind me, smiled at me like I was your best friend, then climbed over the row in front of me and blocked my view. Then there was the drunk seat jumper who kept hugging me and everyone else, trying to grope every chick that he saw. Someone finally brought an usher, who tried to ask him to leave. I suggested he get help, since the guy clearly wasn't going anywhere on his own. By this time, a six-foot-three headbanger who appeared to weight about 250 pounds had placed himself between the drunk and his girlfriend, who the drunk had been molesting. The usher looked at me helplessly: "I'm not security."
Bullshit. You yellow-shirted bastards tackled no less than four stage jumpers, so don't piss down my leg and tell me it's fucking raining. But I didn't say that. I said, "Then get someone who is before someone puts this shitheel in a fucking coma." Ultimately, it was the drunk's friend who dragged him to the aisle. I don't know what happened next, but let it be said that there is no subsititute for friends in a situation like this one. If the asshole, drunk seatjumper is reading this, thank your friend with the bands in his goat-tee; when the usher abdicated his responsibility to eject you, it gave the rest of us that you were hassling some very limited options. But I'm pretty sure the party line would have been, "He was drunk, and he just . . . fell."
Not that I blame anyone for wanting a better view of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice. Or that fucking set! Four pillars adorned with spherical lamps (or crystal balls, if you prefer) mounted on skeletal hands. A chain fence joined the pillars, with Vinnie's drum kit at the "gate" between them. The band was flanked on either side by winged gargoyles perched in dead treetops, whose eyes glowed and breathed smoke. Additional special effects included four pillars of flame that turned the set from a cemetery to Sixth Circle of Hell.
The show kicked off with Mob Rules' E5150 (abridged version) before moving on to the title track from the same album. Dio's soaring vocals seemed effortless, his movements choreographed to reach the audience watching from the lawn behind the amphitheater seats at Glen Helen. He was characteristically low-key when addressing the audience, saving his "strong" voice for the power-vocal he's known for . . . that and the "horns up" salute. Dio kept the energy high, moving freely about the stage and twirling the feet of his mike stand.
I found myself looking up at the monitor to watch Iommi's fingers as they made his trademark Gibson SG an extension of his musical genius; one can't help but notice the digital prosthetics he'd fashioned to help him continue playing guitar following his horrible accident at the Birmingham, England sheet metal fabrication shop, in which he lost the tips of his fingers. Having worked in metal fabrication, I have always felt a certain kinship to Iommi, who arguably, fathered the metal genre when he invoked "the Devil's chord" in their self-titled track, "Black Sabbath." I find myself optimistically referring to him as "Sir Tony." It'll probably never happen; a former steel worker from Birmingham, though revered by headbangers far and wide, isn't exactly the sort of person Queen Elizabeth II has been knighting lately. But we can hope. Frankly, he's the closest thing we in heavy metal have to nobility.
This is to take nothing away from bassist "Geezer" Butler. Sabbath wouldn't have been Sabbath without him. He showed that he was always an innovator, and continues to be. Likewise, Vinnie Appice put his own signature style on the Dio-era Sabbath sound, the focus of the Metal Masters tour and The Rules of Hell boxed-set this tour promotes. Appice's drum solo rivaled Mickey Dee's in its intensity, though not in visual appeal. His drum kit, however, featured some "wobbly" vertical toms, that oscillated when he hit them like . . . well, a weeble (if you don't know what that is, ask your parents).
Their closing number ("Heaven and Hell" - of course) was the long version found on Live Evil. Yes, the one where Dio shouts, "Leave me alone, I want to burn in Hell!" adding, "with you, and you and you," pointing to us in the crowd. The Glen Helen audience gave them a standing ovation, cheering until they returned for a single-song encore, playing "Neon Knights." The place rocked, we banged our heads, and enjoyed the opportunity to hear them play one last number for us. For me, the show was my privilege to attend.
5/5 Circle A