Time waits for no one and when it comes to rock bands, age has a way of catching up to even the greatest of artists. Within the next few years, a number of bands/artists are going to be retiring from the road. Such is the case with Black Sabbath, a legendary outfit that’s rightfully been called the fathers of heavy metal and have quite a storied legacy under their collective belt. The Sabs are currently on the road touring behind 2013’s 13, which is their nineteenth and supposedly final studio album. The tour is appropriately being billed as The End and while founding member/drummer Bill Ward isn’t along for this final rodeo due to an ongoing dispute over financial remuneration, Ozzy Osborne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi have been playing to sold-out arenas with Osborne’s regular drummer, Tommy Clufetos, filling in for Ward. Having already come through the New York area and played Barclay’s Center in 2015 and Madison Square Garden earlier this year, Sabbath was making their final swing through Long Island (although if Nassau Coliseum was still standing, it would have been a more appropriate venue to bid adieu to local fans). And while the crowd that came out definitely skewed older, there were numerous younger folks in attendance being brought out for a final chance at witnessing the door close on a storied group.
With the screen behind the stage flashing the band’s name in fiery lettering, the opener was the foreboding title track to the band’s self-titled 1970 debut. As Osborne sang the opening couplets of this dirge, “What is this that stands before me?/Figure in black which points at me/Turn around quick and start to run/Find out I’m the chosen one,” the crowd sang along for what would be an intriguing exploration of the Sabbath canon. A band that was often accused of being Satanists by the uninformed and ignorant, Black Sabbath was actually more about exploring the darker and more nihilistic aspects of life, which was quite the antithesis of vibes that were prevalent at the time the British quartet first formed. This was clear as Sabbath unleashed stellar versions of “Fairies Wear Boots” (a bad acid trip), “Behind the Wall of Sleep” (an homage to an H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name) or “War Pigs” complete with the stage bathed in red light and klaxons serving as part of the intro.(a commentary on the horrors of war).
Iommi and Butler haven’t lost a step on stage while Osborne served as the band’s 67-year-old cheerleader—proclaiming his love for the fans, doing quasi-jumping jacks and admonishing everyone to raise their hands. Images on the screen behind Clufetos’ drum riser flashed between what looked like red mouse fetuses during “After Forever” and vintage footage of a much younger Sabbath during “Rat Salad,” which unfortunately segued into that one classic rock, live music trope you wish would go extinct—the extended drum solo. And while the expected “Iron Man” and “Paranoid” (first encore) were trotted out, that drum solo could have been better used to serve up a couple of other songs that were overlooked like “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” “Sweet Leaf” or even “The Wizard.”
With Black Sabbath trotting out the same exact set list that was played at Barclay’s and MSG, the only addition was a second encore that wound up being “Zeitgeist,” a ruminative minor chord number off 13. It’s a slot that would have been better served by Sabbath ending with “Planet Caravan.” It was a solid yet unspectacular way for Black Sabbath to ride off into the sunset.