Ozzy Osbourne, with Slash
Saturday, January 22 2011
Better Than: Any night at Angel's Rock Bar.
Somewhere in the middle of "Suicide Solution," I stopped bothering to take notes on this show. What's the point? Ozzy Osbourne is at the stage in his career where it really doesn't matter what he does -- short of murder, or becoming an American Idol judge -- and the truth is, if you're willing to pay to see him now, you're probably going to do 90 percent of the heavy lifting in your own head.
That's true of a lot of rock shows, isn't it? You've paid your money -- probably a hell of a lot, if you're seeing a classic rock god at the Sprint Center -- and, as long as they run through the greatest hits, the crowd's going to pop. Everyone wants to have a good time. There's nothing wrong with that.
Ozzy's habit of encouraging the crowd to "go fucking crazy" gets a lot of press in show reviews. Christ knows that he must've said some variation of that phrase a dozen times before he was even three songs in. But the close second that almost never gets mentioned is how often Osbourne tells the crowd that "he loves you all," and how much he realizes the audience is supporting him.
As soon as Ozzy comes out, it's obvious that this dude is not a young 62. He looks like he could topple over any minute, his body seems out of proportion with itself, and when he does attempt a simple move like a kick or a shimmy (yes, I recognize that it's strange to write about a metal show and use the word shimmy) I'm afraid he's going to seriously hurt himself.
None of this takes away from the fact that history has judged that Ozzy's music fucking rocks. That's no mean feat, considering everything he's done to make us think about the doddering joke of a reality star instead of the satanic figure so fucked up he snorted lines of ants. (He's also so talented he cut the first seven, only important Black Sabbath albums.) Clearly, he understands the nature of his fame now. (Or at least Sharon does.)
Before the crowd even gets to hear him cut a song, they have to sit through a ten-minute video of "funny" clips of Ozzy intercut into pop-culture trends, like Jersery Shore and the Twilight movies. People laugh at this, so maybe I'm just a bitter crank; but, while people are chuckling at how funny it is to see Ozzy insult Snookie's muff cabbage, I'm thinking about how much money Ozzy had to pay to license that shit and how it's feeding back into everything that it says it's mocking. What's worse: Ozzy doesn't need it. All the guy needed was one good pyro explosion and the opening riff to "Bark at the Moon." Ozzy is the special effect, and to see him wasted on anything else feels degrading.
When the real concert does start, of course, Ozzy wins you over. Any asshole can wield a foam hose, or put together a group of hired guns to play classic Sabbath and Randy Rhoads; but Ozzy seems to truly be having fun up there, even after decades of singing the words to "Iron Man." That's what really saves the show from everything else that shouldn't work on paper: Ozzy's ability to connect with his audience in a way that's almost a collaborative effort. He's a multi-millionaire with fame-whoring children, but the sheer joy of the performance makes you pull for him, and goddammit if you don't leave that show wanting "Mama I'm Coming Home" on the playlist at your funeral. He may not be aging well, but he's having fun, and sometimes that's enough.
Then there's Slash. Man.... How do you solve a problem like Slash? He comes out and as soon as the first song starts, it becomes painfully clear he's picked his lead singer based on how well the guy can imitate Axl Rose. It's good karoake, no doubt. But it all feels so rote. Herein lies the problem: no one wants to see Slash without him running down the Gun's & Roses hits, and even a couple of the better Velvet Revolver tunes (they do exist). So, you can't fault the dude for doing a set-list that relies on the past glories. Overheard in the Crowd:
On the other hand, Slash goes through them in the most "check-off-the-shopping-list" sort of way that without the real Axl Rose there to be a badass frontman -- or even Scott Weiland working the crowd -- the whole thing comes off just a notch or two above the nostalgia acts you getting flogged in Branson at the theater across the street from the Yakov Smirnoff show. ("Andy Williams featuring Slash!") I respect that Slash wants to give the people what they want, but while Ozzy avoids seeming like a novelty act despite his advancing years thanks to the glee in the man's face, Slash's zen-like cool comes off as boring and aloof without a live wire next to him to play off of.
At the very least, Slash, I'm begging you to get weird with it. (I know you're reading this!) By all means play some of the shit straight, but give me a version of "Paradise City" only you would approve of. I want to believe in you. Let me.
The swishing sounds of the
acid-washed jeans on the legs of a late-50s housewife, who spent the
entire concert grunting her way through a lap-dance on top of her addled
husband and sloshing chlamydia everywhere.
is almost always underestimated partly because there's a faulty
assumption that the fans are stupid white trash. That's a good
assumption to keep around, because then, no one ever sees you coming.
Metal fans remain great because, as in these shows, they'll supply so
much energy from their own joy at being there that sometimes it doesn't
matter what the act does. Sometimes though, like Friday night, I wish
everyone would demand more for themselves. They deserve it.
Ozzy's set list: Bark at the Moon, Let Me Hear You Scream, Mr. Crowley, I Don't Know, Fairies Wear Boots, Suicide Solution, Road to Nowhere, War Pigs, Fire in the Sky, Shot in the Dark, Rat Salad, Iron Man, I Don't Want to Change the World, Crazy Train. Encore: Mama, I'm Coming Home, Paranoid.
Slash's set list: Sucker Train Blues, Mr. Brownstone, Back From Cali, Civil War, Nothing to Say, By the Sword, Nightrain, Sweet Child O' Mine, Slither, Paradise City.