Thu 9th June 2005
Well tonight was a bit good.
Black Sabbath, due to play the Download festival in a few days time, decided to play a special warm-up gig beforehand in Aylesbury's Civic Hall, a tiny place with about 1,000 capacity. My friends and I managed to obtain tickets and off we went.
After a few drinks, we made our way to the venue, and got inside to find that the place despite its small size had all the atmosphere of a B&Q Warehouse; i.e. zero. Thankfully the rapturous crowd reaction that greeted Sabbath as they strode on stage at 9pm made up for this somewhat, but I can't help thinking that some underground sweatbox like the Underworld would have provided the extra push needed to turn this into an amazing gig rather than just a damn good one. Still, that's not exactly what's on our minds as the godfathers of heavy music launch into a great rendition of 'N.I.B.'. The band are tight and professional, making no slip-ups. God, aka Tony Iommi, is about fifteen feet away from me cranking out the riffage, at such a volume that it sounds like the band have two guitars playing instead of one. Geezer Butler and Bill Ward lay down a rhythm section that doesn't miss a beat, tight and solid. Ozzy is on surprisingly good form. My mate reckons he's singing from a back-up tape as well, but I don't think so - there were moments when you could undoubtedly tell he was singing live. Anyway it all sounded pretty fucking good so who cares?
I haven't listened to Sabbath in ages. Once I would listen to them all the time but recently I've just not bothered to put their records on. Maybe that's why I can't get totally into the music at some points in the set. I've just been away from it for too long. But then I'm still in a state of disbelief that I'm actually seeing Black Sabbath perform on stage in front of me.
The setlist is pretty predictable, sticking to the first 3 albums mainly (no Vol. 4 stuff? what the heck?) and the version of 'Into the Void' is disappointing as they don't play it fast enough, but there are a few surprises. A great version of 'Dirty Women', with Iommi going absolutely crazy on the solo outros, a very doomy version of 'Electric Funeral', preceded by the band teasing the audience for 30 seconds with the 'Symptom of the Universe' riff; the return of 'The Wizard' to the setlist (great version too) and perhaps most intriguingly, when the band come out for the encore they play the acoustic part of 'Sleeping Village'. A rare treat that can't have been played live for about 30 years. Then they thunder into 'Children of the Grave' and the whole place, myself included, go fucking nuts. Then I have to run to get the last train.
Gig of the year? No, but it was very good. Better than Judas Priest, Hawkwind, or indeed most gigs I've seen this year. And I'm hopefully seeing them at Download this weekend too. In a festival surrounding, I think the atmosphere that at times wasn't quite there tonight will be out in abundance.