"Music is a higher revelation than philosophy."
-- composer Ludwig van Beethoven
Ozzy Osbourne, the original Master of Reality, unable to leave the world of performing, ended a three-year leave of absence from touring to promote his eleventh solo album, 1996's Ozzmosis. The Oz-man hit the Pensacola Civic Center on May 20.
The first opening act was Sepultura (Portuguese for "one who resembles the Addams Family's Cousin It"). Sepultura's thrash-core (possibly unintentional) parody of heavy metal started things off with a bang, laying a heavy undercurrent to the evening. The second band, Type O Negative, was from Brooklyn, which is probably why they sucked.
"You know all that stuff about being clean and sober? It's fucking bullshit. I lied."
Throughout the evening, Ozzy made it clear that he is more interested in performing than in singing. Songs were almost incidental to his having fun running across the stage, interacting with the crowd and throwing buckets of water everywhere. Large video screens added playful imagery to the blistering guitar licks and searing vocals.
Before the band came on stage, the screens played a fifteen-minute video of Ozzy parodying pop culture. Everything from Elvis to Madonna fell into his realm. You really had to be there -- words can't adequately describe the hilarity of Bill Clinton giving a speech while a superimposed image of Ozzy throws stuff on the President's desk and lights up a joint next to him. Or Ozzy as the fifth Beatle singing "Twist and Shout."
The band started off with a kicking version of "Paranoid" and proceeded to jam for two hours to all the standards from "Flying High Again" and "Bark at the Moon" to "No More Tears" and "Road to Nowhere," as well as newer hits like "Perry Mason." All the while, he was prancing around, shooting the audience with a huge water gun, mooning the crowd and repeatedly asking everyone to "show me your fookin' hands."
Ozzy left the stage for a short while as the other band members played an extended solo. The guitarist's white-hot licks kept up the headbanging mood as the bassist and drummer laid down the train-rolling beat.
Ozzy came back to do a Sabbath tribute with "Iron Man", "Sweetleaf" and a few other oldies but goodies. Several encores wrapped up the show, starting with "Mama I'm Coming Home" and culminating in "Crazy Train," leaving the aging headbanger crowd pumped up but satisfied.
Don't you try to teach me no original sin
I don't need your pity for the shape I'm in
I don't want to change the world
I don't want the world to change me
Ozzy Osbourne, the man who spent his youth chasing immortality and courting darkness, preaching and living excess, has ended up with as a pot-bellied, middle-aged old fart who can't hit the high notes any more. "Satan laughing spreads his wings."
Ozzy appeared to be drinking shots all night long, and as the evening wore on, he stumbled more and more, weaving across the stage. Occasionally, he would miss a lyric or start a line late. At one point near the end, as he tried to get the audience to start clapping, he clapped off-beat.
His hoarse voice cracked often, reducing to a whisper when high notes extended beyond his current range. I got the impression that when he encouraged the audience to sing along, it wasn't so much for the spirit as to avoid having to sing a few more lines.
Ozzy, born in 1948, put out eight albums with Black Sabbath and another eleven (so far) solo. 1992's "No More Tours" tour was supposedly his last one, but after three years of staying home with the wife and kids, Ozzy got back on the road again with his "Retirement Sucks" tour.
Ozzy is a performer at heart, never truly himself unless he's on stage. He will never stop recording and touring. I get a picture of Ozzy, ten or fifteen years from now, slowly turning into Archie Bunker, balding, grey-haired and sitting in a big EZ-recliner chair on stage with a beer in his hand. "Come on, show me your fookin' hands ... everyone get fookin' crazy."
Because I'm in such a good mood, I'm going to play one more song ...
(Author's note, 2010: The review above was written entirely at the time. I might have been on the right track, but even I didn't see "The Osbournes" coming!)