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Legends of metal: Despite distractions, Black Sabbath remains strong

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Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne performs at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. A live projected image of bassist Geezer Butler is in the background.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Three and a half stars

Black Sabbath September 1, MGM Grand Garden Arena

As exciting as it is to see original Black Sabbath members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler touring together again, there was something missing from their Sunday night concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The most obvious absence was original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward, who has been replaced on this tour by Tommy Clufetos of Osbourne’s solo band. Clufetos is a powerhouse drummer, but he lacks Ward’s finesse, and he sometimes overdid it on the more subtle vintage Sabbath songs. (Giving him a lengthy drum solo framed by “Rat Salad,” an instrumental which on record showcases Ward’s talents, seemed a little insulting, not to mention tedious.)

Even without Ward, though, the music sounded good, and Iommi in particular remains a mesmerizing guitarist. Osbourne’s voice has been hit-or-miss in live settings for years now, and he certainly doesn’t sound as strong as he did on the original Sabbath albums decades ago, but he held his own for most of the show, only occasionally sounding strained or slurred.

Black Sabbath at MGM Grand

It’s too bad that Osbourne’s typical onstage antics kept distracting from the music. Perhaps too accustomed to being the center of attention throughout his successful solo career, he seemed incapable of ceding the spotlight to his talented bandmates. So almost every time Iommi broke into a blistering guitar solo, or a song just paused for an instrumental break, Osbourne was yelling “Let me see your hands!” or “I love you all!” at the crowd, annoyingly overshadowing the music. But even his juvenile behavior couldn’t blunt the power of Sabbath’s songs, including a range of hits and album tracks plus three songs from recent album 13. When the whole package came together on songs like “N.I.B.” and the still-menacing “Black Sabbath,” it was a reminder of why these guys are legends of heavy metal.

Setlist:

“War Pigs”

“Into the Void”

“Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes”

“Snowblind”

“Age of Reason”

“Black Sabbath”

“Behind the Wall of Sleep”

“N.I.B.”

“End of the Beginning”

“Fairies Wear Boots”

“Rat Salad”/drum solo

“Iron Man”

“God Is Dead?”

“Dirty Women”
“Children of the Grave”

Encore:

“Paranoid”

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