Ozzy Osbourne was put on this earth to sing hard rock, and at 64, he is still agile and a consummate showman. During Black Sabbath’s set on Monday night at the Comcast Center, he doused himself with water in-between almost every song, and on several occasions poured buckets of that water on the front sections of the crowd. This was about as extensive as his gimmickry got, and it was just the right amount.
The band was tight throughout their 17-song set, focusing mostly on their most recent album, “13,” which, astoundingly, was the band’s first to reach No. 1 earlier this year. But the songs on “13” are such a return to form that they fit comfortably next to classics like “War Pigs,” “Children of the Grave,” “Paranoid” and “N.I.B.,” the latter of which was especially powerful on Monday night.
Bassist Geezer Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi are mostly nose-to-the-grindstone, as they have always been during the band’s four-decade career, looking like stoic mirror images of each other, flanking the ever-goofy Ozzy. They hold down the tunes with inimitable precision. And drummer Tommy Clufetos, filling in for erstwhile Sabbath co-founder Bill Ward, was a welcome addition. Though Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk played on “13,” Clufetos has been a member of Osbourne’s solo band for years. Clufetos, who is about half the age of the other members, sat high upon the drum riser, and played with the ferocity that Sabbath’s music demands. Gangly and shirtless, he played like he was created in a lab, the result of some wicked scientific experiment to create the ultimate metal drummer. And when he launched into his solo between “Rat Salad” and “Iron Man,” it was evident that the experiment had worked.
The only experiment that didn’t work all the time was the video projection behind the band. At the beginning, it was appropriately scary, showing montages that proved this was definitely not a Disney-fied commercial-commodity version of Sabbath. In one of the more successful attempts, during “Age of Reason,” from the new album, a man in a straightjacket is stuffed into a morgue drawer, but he’s not dead. He convulses with a frantic energy that matches the music well.
Toward the end of the set, during their 1976 song “Dirty Women,” the montage was of pornos and strippers. It was over-the-top, but not over-the-top enough to provide any sort of commentary. What immediately sprang to mind was the scene in “This Is Spinal Tap” where Nigel and David are trying to find a good reason for why the makeup of their audience is predominantly male.
Sure enough, a quick survey of the audience revealed that it was indeed mostly dudes, and mostly dudes who were psyched to be looking at boobs, perhaps because many of them hadn’t seen the real things, without having to pay to see them, in some time. But coming to this speculative conclusion about the sexual success of the audience was the only downer of the night. It was only this moment where the band became a parody of itself, easier to identify because “Spinal Tap” had pointed out the parody in the first place.