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November 30, 2010

Review: Ozzy Osbourne at 1st Mariner Arena, November 29

Contributor Evan Haga reviews Ozzy Osbourne's show Monday night at 1st Mariner Arena.

Playing a video segment before a concert is nothing new. Often nonsensical, these clips set the mood, heighten the anticipation and allow audience members to find their seats without missing anything.

But the short program that opened heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne’s 100-minute show last night at 1st Mariner Arena was something else - savvy, explicit and hilarious.

It featured Osbourne verbally sparring with Snooki from "Jersey Shore"; dancing, in drag, alongside Lady Gaga; and working himself into various blockbuster films, "Avatar" and "The Hangover" among them. 

Funny stuff, and it made a point. Osbourne is now pop-culture property beyond rock ’n’ roll. He’s an advertising personality known to millions, not as the Englishman who invented heavy metal, but as the mumbling, bumbling grandfatherly star of reality TV.

So a challenge was set: Can the Prince of Darkness still bring it? The short answer is yes. The best hard-rock frontmen have been Pied Pipers to their head-banging fans, lion tamers at the circus that is the arena metal show.

Those literal and figurative pyrotechnics were present: a shower of sparks at the head of “Mr. Crowley”; a marathon solo from drummer Tommy Clufetos atop an elevated riser; and many startling blasts of fireworks, from the opening “Bark at the Moon” to the final encore, Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”

Osbourne tended to pitter-patter around the stage—the same geriatric gait America came to love on MTV's "The Osbournes"—and carried a gut that even his head-to-toe black attire couldn’t downsize. Still, he was absolutely the centerpiece of the madness, and seemed to enjoy it.

 More than once, Osbourne mercilessly drilled security and the front of the crowd with a foam canon. After one blasting session, he tossed two buckets of - what was hopefully - water onto the ground-level fans. But his gratitude toward them was palpable.

Throughout his mostly indecipherable between-song addresses, he repeated one of his new album’s song titles, “I love you all,” like a nervous tic. (And that foamlike substance? Washable, he said.)

The crowd, cross-generational with a large quotient of middle-aged fanboys, bountifully returned his enthusiasm. But as fervent as the audience was, the numbers weren’t overwhelming. The floor and lower concourses were pretty filled out, but the rest of the arena looked barren. In the end, reality TV can only do so much.

The elephant in the room was, of course, the voice. With Black Sabbath and into the ’80s, Osbourne touted a sturdy vocal instrument, perhaps the most appealingly "evil" voice in hard rock. When metal singers either growled or squealed, Osbourne’s pipes were something else altogether, and you could recognize his tight, compressed mid-range a mile away.

You still can, but the wear and tear is, to put it kindly, very much audible. The 61-year-old warbled, wheezed and stopped short; in "American Idol" parlance, he was pitchy, to say the least.

What pulled up the slack was, first of all, an excellent and diverse set list, with 15 tunes plus instrumental spotlights for guitar, band and drums. Solo hits, like the tender “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” notorious “Suicide Solution” and hooky “Shot in the Dark,” were strategically ordered around Sabbath classics, which the band performed without too much revisionary decoration.

A recent single, “Let Me Hear You Scream,” painlessly advertised the new album. Osbourne’s other saving grace was his four-piece band, particularly new guitarist Gus G. As he himself recounted, Osbourne has collaborated with some of the best and most influential rock guitarists, and G. held up his end of this dynasty. What most impressed was how he seemed to blend this legacy with his own identity. In other words, he got in some original wailing but respected the past, quoting or recreating the most memorable leads of the Ozzy canon: Randy Rhoads’ solos on “Crazy Train,” or Tony Iommi’s immortal breaks on “Iron Man” and “Fairies Wear Boots.”

G. seemed to work a stunning balance between the neoclassical school that Rhoads influenced and the beefier, blues-based shredding of Zakk Wylde, whom G. replaced last year. There didn’t seem to be a fingertapping lick or rapid-fire arpeggio that escaped him.

Osbourne’s opening act, Halford, had two of its own certified guitar virtuosos, and worked a different dynamic than Osbourne: zero pyrotechnics, except for Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford’s thrilling falsetto, which sounded remarkably on point. But some fans seemed disappointed this wasn’t an outright Priest set, even if it did include “Jawbreaker” and Priest’s covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi” and Joan Baez’s “Diamonds & Rust.”

Halford has a new album out, and the band played several of its songs. They had rip-roaring harmonized guitar leads, pummeling double-bass drumming, titles like “Thunder and Lightning” and surplus volume. Isn’t that enough?

Rob Halford setlist:


Made in Hell  

Locked and Loaded  

Made of Metal  

Nailed to the Gun

Fire and Ice  

Thunder and Lightning  

The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) (Fleetwood Mac cover)  

Diamonds & Rust (Joan Baez cover)  

Jawbreaker (Judas Priest cover)  

Like There’s No Tomorrow  

Cyber World

 Ozzy Osbourne setlist:

Bark at the Moon  

Let Me Hear You Scream  

Mr. Crowley  

I Don’t Know  

Fairies Wear Boots (Black Sabbath)  

Suicide Solution  

Road to Nowhere  

War Pigs (Black Sabbath) 

Fire in the Sky  

Shot in the Dark 

Guitar solo/Full-band jam/Drum solo  

Iron Man (Black Sabbath)  

I Don’t Want to Change the World  

Crazy Train  


Mama, I’m Coming Home  

Paranoid (Black Sabbath)

Evan Haga is a frequent Midnight Sun contributor, and the managing editor of JazzTimes.  He last reviewed The Cult at Rams Head Live. Erik Maza edited this post. 

Photo: Gene Sweeney Jr/Baltimore Sun

Our Ozzy photo gallery is here.  

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Posted by Erik Maza at 1:30 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Concert reviews


loved the show ozzy is the greatest even if he did warble, wheeze and stopped short; i dont care he is still the best

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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