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"Still Falls The Rain", Black Sabbath @O2 (London) 10/12/13 Live Report

A few months ago I had the chance to see Acid Mothers Temple play classic Black Sabbath songs and it was outstanding. After seeing the real deal though, the Japanese crew became just a curiosity as 'normal' as a bar cover band.

What can you say when you have the chance to see a band that defines so many things you hear nowadays? Even if it was three quarters of those specific fabulous four, Black Sabbath still are the real deal!

Opening act Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats set the tone in sabbathy dirges with their intertwined dual vocals but as soon as they finished, a certain nervousness permeated the venue. It's as if everybody is wandering through the same familiar forest on the Sabs first record cover, knowing they will find that figure in black no matter what they do to avoid such a fateful encounter.

When the lights go down, sirens wail like an impending blitzkrieg in London. Sure enough, the bombardment comes down in the shape of 'War Pigs'. The difference is that noone runs for shelter, preferring to embrace this bombing. I can't even begin to explain what I felt, to be in the presence of the actual persons that wrote all those classics 40 odd years ago. An exhilarating breakdown where happiness and disbelief take control. I was no longer in control of myself. There were tears rolling down my cheeks as I was ready to enter The Church Of Sabbath (the only other time this happened was when I saw and entered another kind of Cult, the Blue Öyster one).

I was still in a haze from the first song when the Brummies launch us 'Into The Void' and up into the night sky so vast we went. Where do they lead us? To some place 'Under The Sun'. Though it's a track from Vol.4, it's not one of the most expected to see them play live which only makes it even more special, though they didn't play the last real doomy slowdowned ending.

Black Sabbath were in full form. Ozzy Osbourne's voice was amazingly impeccable, Geezer Butler is no longer the wild rocker of yore but instead he is more like the elder sage you can turn to in times of distress and despair. As for the moustached 'bigodes*' man himself, Tony Iommi seems more invigorated and enpowered than ever, plowing the stage energetically while delivering those supernatural riffs summoned from some unknown underworlds in the form of a guitar. You can tell he is a man who is joyful to be alive and beware because he might just gain more power as he reaps your soul while he delivers riff after riff with a smile in his face. Yes, the same faint smile the young lady in Black Sabbath's first record has on her face.

The gig continues in Vol.4 territory with a mighty 'Snowblind' complete with the string mellotron of the original, which prompted the questions 'Who is the invisible keyboardist?' and for the real Sab nerds 'Is it Geoff Nichols?' (I believe it's Adam Wakeman, son of Yesman Rick, actually).

Since Black Sabbath are promoting a new record, of course they have to play some new songs. 'Age Of Reason' is the first of three they play throughout the show and from the last record, they take us to the first.

There isn't a young lady clad in black by the lake but like her, we smile faintly at the distant tolling bell and the still falling rain. That demonic riff takes control and hypnotizes the whole audience like cult followers ready to condemn their souls. Sheer simple and efective heaviness that takes everybody 'Behind The Wall Of Sleep' and the stroll continues with 'N.I.B.'.

Indeed, it was the 'End Of The Beginning' as we are brought back to the present for another '13' track. Oddly, the ending section of the song reminds of latter Sabbath records with Ozzy, bringing to mind a middle section of 'Dirty Women' (more on that later).

By now, we are in the middle of the show and the old Brummie veterans know that the crowd wants more classics. So, we are transported back to 1970, this time to the Paranoid album. A combination composed of 'Fairies Wear Boots', 'Rat Salad' complete with drum solo that leads us to the presence of the 'Iron Man'. Again, the heaviness of a simple riff makes the cult behaviour come forth again in the crowd.

Unfortunately, after this trinity of songs comes the moment where the whole experience loses a bit of strength. Black Sabbath play yet another '13' track, the single 'God Is Dead?' and they follow it with 'Dirty Women'. I really don't understand how Black Sabbath 'insist' on playing that song. They really like the track! They always played it, I know but to play it in detriment of any Sabotage songs seems wasteful. No 'Symptom Of The Universe'? 'Dirty Women'? I even asked to about ten or fifteen people as they were coming out of the venue if they would've prefered 'Symptom' instead of 'Dirty Women' and everyone I asked agreed with me (even if all of them looked suspicious at the idea of being approached by a bearded longhaired stranger, they all answered). Even 'Never Say Die' would've been a more cheerful surprise!

The way Black Sabbath turned this not so strong moment around was with a thunderous rendition of 'Children Of The Grave'. I might sound simple but it was just so heavy I can't really find a definition for it. The middle bit especially was like poor undead gazed souls being led to a blazing cauldron and burn in some hellish pit of despair.

After this, came the sole encore where the opening segment of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' (the only time they played something out of that record) leads into their mega classic stamp on music history, 'Paranoid'. Since it would be the last song of the show, we just had to savour it like nerdy longhair pimpled teenagers in the 70's.

When it finally ended, I still couldn't realize that I had just seen one of the bands that mean so much to me. It was like a religious enlightenment and the final trial for my entry in the Church Of Sabbath and I think I entered with flying colours.

*Bigodes means moustache in Portuguese and it's the nickname João Arsénio (drummer in Portuguese heavy psych duo, Asimov) gives to Tony Iommi.

Report made by Carlos Ferreira/2014
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