GIG REVIEW: BLACK SABBATH’s Final Goodbye at Genting Arena, Birmingham
I first started going to shows when I was 17 years old, and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to see so many of the bands I have love and admiration for: Machine Head, Amon Amarth, Napalm Death, Exodus, Anthrax, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Korn, Slipknot, Behemoth, Gojira…the list goes on and on. But for now, it’s time to talk about possibly the most memorable gig I’ll ever see in my life: Black Sabbath. Let’s begin.
There was only one support act at this gig, courtesy of American rock band Rival Sons. In all honesty, my knowledge of this band is particularly minimal, but for a band that is clearly a 1970s revival act in the contemporary age (influenced by Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and the like), they did a fairly good job at opening the show for the audience. The downside to gigs like this is that everyone is waiting for the headline act, which when you’re opening for a band as influential and massively popular as Black Sabbath is no easy task. Nonetheless, the fact that this band has over the years toured with the likes of Kiss, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest and Aerosmith should signify their own individual acclaim. In terms of their setlist, Rival Sons performed the songs “Electric Man”, “Secret”, “Pressure and Time”, “Tied Up”, “Fade Out”, “Open My Eyes”, “Torture” and “Keep On Swinging”.
Talking about Black Sabbath is no easy feat, but here’s my attempt at it. Of course by this point in the evening, the anticipation level was so intense you could feel it around you. What struck me the most about this gig is that it was the first time I’ve ever been to a gig that had been attended by a truly global audience. When I wasn’t hearing people mentioning that they had flown from Florida and Australia for this show, I was trying to keep count of how many different languages I was hearing around me. Young, old, male, female, people in Jimi Hendrix t-shirts and others in Kreator hoodies, it seemed as if every kind of rock fan had made their way to the Birmingham Genting Arena for this event. That’s another thing I should acknowledge – this wasn’t just another gig, this was an event. Black Sabbath kicked things off, followed by what was essentially a greatest hits set – ‘Fairies Wear Boots’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘After Forever’, ‘Children of the Grave’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep’ and ‘N.I.B’, all sounding colossal as they were played through the best sounding PA I think I’ve ever come across at a concert in my life so far. Fortunately, the emphasis on the sombre attitude considering this was Black Sabbath’s penultimate live performance was surprisingly absent, being replaced instead by genuine enjoyment and entertainment. It was equally about visual spectacle as it was about the music itself, with the band dropping dozens of big inflatable balloon balls on the audience followed by tens of thousands of little pieces of purple paper with ‘BLACK SABBATH’ printed on them – a souvenir of the gig if ever there was one, and now something I intend to keep forever. Sabbath’s one song encore of course consisted of ‘Paranoid’ – one last triumphant blast of music before the proceedings were truly brought to an end.
I can’t say enough about how good Black Sabbath was on Thursday 2nd February 2017. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect I would see that band live at all, let alone in their hometown on what has been billed and advertised as their farewell tour. Their final show takes place just hours after I started writing what you’re reading now. I wish I could be there to see them again, but just once was enough. An undisputed legendary band, responsible for influencing everyone from the Sex Pistols to Metallica to Carcass to Royal Blood, is. saying goodbye. Farewell Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Tommy Clufetos and Adam Wakeman, and of course to Bill Ward, Geoff Nicholls, Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio as well – Black Sabbath, thank you for everything. You changed the world.