Children of the Grave

Black Sabbath sunders the Frank Erwin Center

“Let me hear you!,” bellowed Ozzy Osbourne behind the black scrim boxing the Erwin Center stage Saturday night. The house lights hadn’t gone down, but the air raid sirens went up, and so did the critical mass inside the midtown arena. In the gloom, Geezer Butler climbed the stairs stage left and Tony Iommi ascended stage right. Then began “War Pigs.”

For the next two hours, that spearheading folk-blues detonation – as damning today as when it was written in 1970, and doubtlessly carrying forward in its commentary on mankind – became a wake that sent one tsunami after another through a music canon as familiar as the characters in a Hollywood classic:

Tony Iommi, the epitome of heavy metal cool, in a leather frock coat, sunglasses, and trademark silver cross hanging on his chest (see photo gallery), scrubbing massive, biting riffs from his collection of Gibson SGs; Geezer Butler, fingers flying across four strings while anchoring his longtime bandmate’s riffology; and Osbourne, his range gone but looking two-thirds his age, shuffling around the stage, singing mostly in the key of Q and exhorting the brimming Red River drum to make itself heard.

For his part, drummer Tommy Clufetos, standing in for a recalcitrant Bill Ward, was there in a purely support capacity, despite an overlong drum solo at the end of “Rat Salad.”

Performing in front of a Hammer Films horror backdrop, the UK legends’ winged devil mascot framing three video screens, Black Sabbath thus unearthed hidden gems as well as the best of its new LP, 13. Riding rhino-sized riffs in the grand tradition, “Age of Reason” and “God is Dead?” filled the Erwin Center as monstrously as “Behind the Wall of Sleep” and the Butler showcase “N.I.B.” “Methademic” soared like a Pteranodon instead of stomping like a Brontosaurus, while “End of the Beginning” rumbled as powerfully as any primal slice of what the Sabs do best.

Ultimately, though – of course – it was the early, Tyrannosaurus hits, big and raw, that drew the reddest blood and the shrillest screams. With Iommi, 65, playing like a man not facing lymphoma for the rest of his days; Butler, 64, keeping the groove aflame; and Osbourne, 64, doing, well, his best, “Children of the Grave,” “Into the Void,” and especially “Black Sabbath” – the tritone that altered the course of popular music – handily inhabited the sound of heavy metal being invented right before your ears. Even 40 years on.

Erwin Center Set List, July 27, 2013

“War Pigs”

“Into the Void”

“Under the Sun/Every Day Comes & Goes”

“Snowblind”

“Age of Reason”

“Black Sabbath”

“Behind the Wall of Sleep”

“N.I.B.”

“End of the Beginning”

“Fairies Wear Boots”

“Methademic”

“Rat Salad”

“Iron Man”

“God is Dead?”

“Dirty Women”

“Children of the Grave”

Encore: “Paranoid”

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, Tommy Clufetos, Hammer Films

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