BLACK SABBATH / SOUNDGARDEN / FAITH NO MORE / MOTORHEAD / SOULFLY : London Hyde Park 04 July 2014
“The Last Supper”, says the t-shirt. One of many. Everywhere black Black Sabbath t-shirts. Everywhere. Or as, the Melvins had it : “Why did the metalhead cross the road?” - “Because they're a moron who will buy anything with skulls on it.”
Black Sabbath, here at the tail end of their two year reunion/pension tour bow out – for now, possibly ever – to around 100,000 people on a rainy Friday in London. And Hyde Park? As ever, it is enormous, and organised with the kind of incompetence only the British truly excel at : aqueuing system allows you an hour to build up your thirst before extracting £5.50 a pint, and a burger costs £6.50 ; Fries £3. I am thankful for the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Experiment, whereby I liberate them of approximately 10 tubs of Raspberry Chocolate Swirl in an hour : a healthy replacement for your average evening meal. Hyde Park is a ruthless and cynical money extraction system, designed to separate you from your money, and it is fiercely efficient and ruthless at it.
Behind us, the towers of Russian oligarchs – and the most expensive flats in the world (in all probability) – tolerate the presence of the great unwashed again. Pity poor Oligarch, who bought a flat overseeing a huge park and has to endure a handful of days of music a year. Cry into the controls of your private jet and go to one of your other homes. And so it's all over by 10.20. Half an hour before Guns N Roses would take the stage.
After all, the day before Arcade Fire, the day after The Libertines. And on Sunday, the um... McBusted. We are all corporate entertainment now.. Soulfly are your early afternoon turn : with the roar of ex-Sepulturas and a handful of classic Sepultura songs : “Roots”, at 3.00pm in the sunshine is perhaps an unusual experience.
The second band of the day, again, classically misplaced on the bill are Motörhead. It doesn't matter, - and has it ever – who is that band? As long as Lemmy lives, Motörhead exist, even if the other members have been there since 1682. Motörhead are, and always have been, an extension of Lemmy : only one or two songs come from the previous 30 years. The band sound haggard : not bad, more, worn down by years of constant work. Lemmy opens the day with his succinct introduction : “We are Motörhead and we play Rock and Roll.” And they do. A barrage of sound as wide as a planet, as heavy as neutron soup, as powerful as a bomb.
It's marred by the band playing their new single – do these even exist anymore? - “Lost Woman Blues”, which is at best, a long and turgid trawl of boredom. And following it with 12 minute “Dr. Rock” means that it's not even four o clock, and there's a drum solo. Come on. You only have 45 minutes. Don't spent 10% of that with a drum solo. Hint : “Bomber” is a better song than the best drum solo from the best drummer in the world. And then someone nobody seems to recognise comes on and duets “Killed By Death”. Oh well. There's no “Orgasmatron”, or “Bomber.” But we have Motörhead. And the sight of Lemmy yelling out anyone of his classics is practically, a moment of great rock-shaped genius. I saw Motörhead. They were real. And with Lemmy at 68, at some point they will not anymore.
Over the Top
Lost Woman Blues
Going to Brazil
Killed by Death
Ace of Spades
FAITH NO MORE 5.15-6.30
Opening their first show in 2 years, Faith No More come on mid afternoon in blazing sunshine to easily the biggest – and tightest crowd – of the day. More people may be seeing Sabbath : but more people are passionately giving themselves to Faith No More. Dressed as priests, the stage covered in all white drapes and flowers, to an opening tape of “Tubular Bells” todays show, thematically, is based on a communal exorcism, Patton sprinkling the crowd with water and yelling the power of Christ compels you! : it all seems a little baffling until they debut the first new Faith No More song in 17 years as the set closer : it's an ugly, gorgeous, spiky thing – like a huge poison pufferfish of rock – with Mike & Roddy trading lines about Christ, power, dictators, ambition, capitalism and corruption : “Leader Of Men : one day, you could be one of THEM” it goes. It's huge, towering, and oh my, do I like that!
The rest of the set is powerful, but it's the first time in a long time I've seen them in daylight, and to be honest, Faith No More work best in darkness and rooms with walls and roofs. They open with “Zombie Eaters”, and hearing the rest of the field serenade this deep album cut from 25 years ago – word-perfect – makes me think. I know this band were huge once. But why they are here, and not at the very least on immediately before Black Sabbath confuses me. And then it's “From Out Of Nowhere”, “Epic”, “Midlife Crisis”, “Caffeine”, “The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies”, “Easy”, “Everythings Ruined”. Having a field full of people sing and loudly swear, all of us who should now better, is just simple, smart-but-dumb fun. Relax. It's just a phase. You'll grow out of it. NEVER. And frankly, it's been a while since I've been in a pit at a stadium metal show. The people who only saw them in the reformation last the whole set. The 41 years olds don't. It takes a very big intelligence to make music this primal.
On the plus side, I still am on a heady Shaunryderesque cocktail of antibiotics to battle a gum abscess, double pnuemonia, bronchitis, and a lower respiratory tract viral and bacterial infection. I shouldn't be out of the house, let alone in a moshpit. Grow old, not up. But goddamn. I cannot resist songs like this. Deep songs from the commercial decline are still whipped out as powerful and passionately as ever : and whilst the set is deeply topheavy – I lament the absence of “Be Aggressive”, “Ricochet”, “Digging The Grave”, “Evidence”, “Last Cup Of Sorrow”, “Stripsearch”, for example – and the ridiculous "walk off for 5 minutes for an encore in a 75 minute support slot" bullshit, the end is a duststorm called “We Care A Lot”, and the band walk off with a towering achievement that Soundgarden fail to meet, and Black Sabbath? Well... that comes later. Band Of The Day... Kings For A Lifetime.
From Out of Nowhere
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Cuckoo for Caca
King for a Day
Ashes to Ashes
Leader of Men [premiere]
Hang Up The Phone Motherfucker! [premiere]
We Care a Lot
Soundgarden, who are currently mining the nostalgia wave with a enormous, unjustfiably bloated supermegaboxset of “Superunknown”, also manage to play to one of the biggest crowds of their career, and – as Chris Cornell opens up by saying, with a full recital for the third, and final, time, “Superunknown” in its entireity from front to back. Bring back the days of vinyl LP's, I say, for then albums were 45 minutes long and not 75. I half expected Soundgarden to come off stage for 20 minutes, then come back on to play a crap 'hidden' track. I'm not sure if I have ever been a fan of the LP-in-full shows, when the album is just a collection of songs, in an order designed to be listened to in a bedroom, not in a windy, sunswept park of 100,000 people. It is fair to say that Soundgarden utterly underwhelmed me. Utterly. Not helped by the fact that, even though Mike McCready came on to play third guitar on the albums titletrack. I had tuned out by the time of 'Superunknown' so I lament the rock-shaped hole where “Rusty Cage”, “Jesus Christ Pose” and well... all those other songs weren't.
There is a touching family moment during their set : “NO MUM! I'm not buying you another drink, you've had too many already.”, which is easily the most entertaining moment of their set, as a 17 year old bolsters up his incoherent parent. A 17 year old who wasn't even born when this album came out.
Let Me Drown
Fell on Black Days
Superunknown (with Mike McCready)
Black Hole Sun
The Day I Tried to Live
Kickstand - Fresh Tendrils
4th of July
BLACK SABBATH 8.45-10.25
In short :
9.00 “LETS GO CRAZY!”
9.10 Tony Iommi Devil Horns
9.20 Song from New Album
9.30 Bass solo
9.40 “I CAN'T HEAR YOU!”
9.50 Drum Solo. I miss Cozy Powell.
10.00 Bucket Of Water Over Crowd
10.10 “I STILL CAN'T HEAR YOU! LETS GO FUCKING CRAZY!”
10.20 Go Home. Now. Quietly. There are Russian Oligarchs sleeping.
The not so short version? On their umpteenth reunion, Black Sabbath (ish) – Tony Iommi, Gzr Butler, Ozzy Osborne, and some anonymous American tubthumper on drums (Tony Clufetos?) bring their two year world tour to a close with a final, door-slamming-shut headline show at Hyde Park. After 45 years, 6 lead singers, about 14 bass players, 2,000 drummers, and one guitarist, Black Sabbath – well, anyone who says it isn't Black Sabbath without Bill Ward has a point. But, at the same time, I remember when Tony Martin was singing and Cozy Powell was on drums, and Black Sabbath was no more Black Sabbath than the Ozzy Osborne band was. On the surface of it, Sabbath's very own brand of turgidly heavy doom stoner-metal is immense : long, meandering, epics, - after all, there's only 15 songs in 105 minutes – and short on hooks. For the casual fan, of which I have only ever been, The Ozzy Osborne pantomime show long overshadowed everything else, when his wife sold his obvious brain-monged dementia for profit on network television. Whilst Geezer and Tony Iommi clearly still have it together, and in many ways are the bands solid, necessary infrastructure, without which everything else would collapse, Ozzy Osborne is a goddamn clown : from the moment he calls a song off their first album “an early composition”, as if he were up there with John Lennon, Lieber / Stoller, Mozart and God himself, to the final moments where he drenches the audience – as ever – with one of a multitude of buckets of water, Osborne is a borderline functioning human, leading the audience in huge swathes of Black Sabbath Karaoke, whilst the rest of the band are a solid, riff delivery mechanism.
Geezer – headbanging solidly and slowly with a near hypnotic repetition, a bass mantra – has often been very underrated ; without his enormous sound, Black Sabbath would simply not be. Tony Iommi? Yeah. I won't blow smoke under that ass, he's a fine guitarist. Albeit he ponders a bit with endless noodling. Sabbath never use one note when 20 will do, and seem to take forever to use each one.
They open with “War Pigs”, a huge video backdrop betraying the endless cycle of war – at one point, I swear I see Michael Jackson in his general regalia, The Kim Jong Un of Pop so to speak, but no, it's my imagination, it's Gaddaffi.
In the meantime, Tony Cfuletos, barechested, enormously tattooed, and with more hair than the rest of the audience put together, clumps his way theatrically through the whole set. He's not a bad drummer, but he's just not good enough and whilst he sounds …. good, he raises the sticks too high, brings them down too hard, as if he were some kind of theatrical boxer with a punch like Godzilla. But he's not Bill Ward, and can't play the same way. And if he's not good enough to play on the album,. Usurped by Brad Wilkes of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave for the record sessions, is he one to complain? He's cheaper, and probably has no thoughts of his own, being a musical employee deployed like a weapon to execute the drum sounds accurately, - when Ozzy calls him “Our drummer”, he's right : Sabbath OWN him, and they never did Bill Ward. Who's the complain? He's playing drums in Black Sabbath for a tasty salary and living out the dreams he has as a fourteen year old in 1993 when he first listened to “Vol 4” after Kurt Cobain raved about it. Living the dream. Even the drum solo is the exact same one (as far as I can recall) he played four years ago when he was Ozzy Osborne's more pliant employee at the miniscule Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall, When G/Z/R was replaced by the geezer from White Zombie and some newfangled guitarist called something like Billy Wonderkid.
The buckets he throws over the crowd are bigger at Black Sabbath, the fire is real, the fireworks are genuine, and the band – Black Sabbath – and this is the umpteenth lineup of the band there is – may not be 100% original 1968-era, but it is as much of it as there can be now, and it feels like a band. Come the end, and it's “Iron Man” - a song inspired, perhaps, by the sound of the city in which it was born, like much of Sabbath's material : the sound of growing up surrounded by chimneys, surrounded by forged metal and smelt, surrounded by the meagre weekly takehome and marrying the girl next door and the suburban 2.4 children and the dog, the sound of an industrial city that is now centered by the huge Anthony Gormley statue of a Iron Man itself. The sound of industry and oppression and man creating something out of metal.
The end is “Paranoid”. What else could it be? Start, where it ends, after all. End, where it starts. Is this the end? Is it over? Who knows anymore. But here it is : Black Sabbath, of a sort, in front of your eyes, for a short period, and then possibly gone forever. As Birmingham born and bred, they are the band I always saw – or most of them at least – bearded and bored, sitting in rock clubs, standing at the band of rock gigs, driving their kids to school and in the supermarket in black leather. The sound of my childhood, even if I never had a childhood with them in : Black Sabbath and I were born of the same air, and it feels like the end of something.
Into the Void
Age of Reason
Behind the Wall of Sleep
Fairies Wear Boots
Rat Salad (with Drum Solo)
God Is Dead?
Children of the Grave
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath intro / Paranoid
(Zeitgeist - exit tape)