Monday, January 30, 2017
Black Sabbath At The 02
I was sulking. The joys of watching the new series of Endeavour on ITV couldn't remotely match the excitement of seeing Black Sabbath. At school I had always wanted to be 'one of the lads'- or even, 'in with the lads'. In the 1970s, teenage music-boys had knapsacks made of thick rough khaki cotton, upon which they painted intricate logos of their fave bands in bright enamel paint: Deep Purple ('the Purple'), Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ugh), Led Zep, Mott (the Hoople), Genesis (no thanks).
No, I didn't like those bands- but I did like Black Sabbath, music thugs that they were. It was only later that I became more ruffty-tuffty than all the lads rolled up together by playing in a punk band; at the time Black Sabbath were mysteriously aggressive and frightening and had great riffs and bawlingly morose songs, especially Paranoid.
Yes, I was sulking.
Kind friends on social media gave me advice and in the end, I was directed to a resale website where I swallowed hard and simply bought another ticket- more cheaply and a far better one. Off I went, sharing the tube down there with a man with some frozen meatballs between his legs (don't even ask). At North Greenwich, an improbably-coiffed heavy metal guitarist had set up shop and grinned boyishly through his bright grey moustache at the Sabbath fans, who seemed to be sporting black North Face fleeces to a man. There was a sprinkling of wives, girlfriends and daughters of Sabbath fans there, too. Offsprog Two and her Beau were waiting in one of the bars of the mega-02 building (it's like a bloody airport!) for their resale tickets that were stuck in a traffic jam in the car of a friendly Brummie.
Oh, this was exciting! I walked miles to entrance 'H' and browsed the merch. You could get a black t-shirt, or a black one; or you could spend a ton on aluminium drumsticks. I was a bit disappointed; I think I'd been expecting spells and wands, but you can't have everything.
Inside the auditorium, I was gobsmacked by the sheer size of it. I've never been to a stadium gig before. A big 'Black Sabbath' curtain fluttered in front of the stage and you could hear people testing the microphones in Brummie accents: "One Two, one two".
Suddenly there they were, on a stage decorated with dramatic flaming things, and sixteen speaker cabinets, and a drum kit that looked like a whole music-shops-worth of drums (I actually don't think he could have reached the farthest-flung floor toms). Ear-splitting riffs roared from the stage and Ozzy bellowed full-throttle while screens showed us close-ups of Tony Iommi's fingers (plus at least four spare plectrums stuck on his guitar ) and Geezer Butler's head. Wow! This was even better than Spinal Tap! Out came the songs: Iron Man, War Pigs, a song with a distorted bass solo, one with a very long and dramatic drum solo that sent the crowd wild. There was an extensive peppering of mobile phone screens, and a lot of very polite headbanging (even me, I'm afraid to admit). I stuffed torn up tissues into my ears as my head began to split. Ozzy was grinning. "Oi love yow", he kept telling us. We love you too Ozzy, and how come everyone in the band still has hair? Nobody in the audience does, unless they are a mum, a sister or a son. Ozzy's hair didn't answer, it simply rippled in the wind.
Some time around this point, I realised that the fire was fake; it was post-truth fire, and there was I worrying about them all getting hot and sweaty. Pah!
Looking up, I saw nets of balloons lurking in the heights of the dome. Surely not! The set finished, with no Paranoid. Goodbye and eff off, I thought, sulking again. But no! Here they are back again, the song begins, we stand up to a man (and woman), down tumble massive purple and black balloons, we roar along, we bang our heads, lights flash, the sound cranks up to even more deafening levels and OFF WE GO!
Oh, what fun it all was!
Afterwards we shuffled off to the tube station, all polite and satisfied. And there at London Bridge was either the same busker, or an exact replica of him: same cheesy grin and moustache, fake tan gleaming under the fluorescent lights, same riffs and set of pedals. Welcome to the land of heavy metal!