By August 22nd m’lady and I were back on Canadian soil after two weeks of meandering north from San Diego. We had been circuiting through the United States seeing a cornucopia of concerts (of course) and we had one more show left on our itinerary before pivoting to the east for a straight-shot home to Ottawa.
And that show would be Black Sabbath at the Rogers Centre in Vancouver.
We awoke to a healthy fruit breakfast courtesy of m’lady’s uncle, after which we drove to a nearby nursing home to visit with her 101 year old grandmother, a crackerjack of prim and proper with eyes like a hawk and strength like a bull. We finally ended up downtown, wandering the streets outside the many rule-flaunting coffee shops, each one outfitted with pockets of legitimate law-breakers crowding the sidewalks who whispered “psssst…” to nearly everyone who walked by.
Time marched on and we found a place for a quick dinner. We had a concert to get to and were starting to get a bit rushed. I was happy to see our food came quickly, we stuck to one drink and were on target to get to the Rogers Centre in plenty of time for the show.
I saw our waitress Tina and motioned for the bill. She pretended not to see me and promptly disappeared, for how long I don’t know, but after a good twenty minutes of no-Tina I flagged down the head server and paid our tab. We got out of there and hit the ground running, making it to our seats for the third song. Damn you straight to hell Tina, you made me miss War Pigs!
We had the best of the cheap seats, front row dead centre of the 300 level. Beside me a woman proudly boasted to me that she had brought her fifteen year-old son along for his first concert. Onstage three-quarters of the original lineup powered through their greatest hits and a smattering of new material to an ecstatic crowd.
Tony Iommi was both stoic and solid in his role as riffmaster while Geezer Butler held the bottom with his guitar-esque bass work. Ozzy was a living parody of himself, filling every moment between vocals with a “show me your f***ing hands!” “I can’t f***ing hear you!” or “let’s see your f***ing lighters!” He scrolled through this trio of commands constantly throughout the concert, and all the while I could hear a distinct frog in his throat (bat in his throat?) so pronounced that he cleared his throat into his microphone at least four times.
The show was mediocre at best, and where it really missed the mark was by excluding their original drummer who absolutely fused with lyricist/bassist Butler on those plodding dark hits from our childhood. The role was unfortunately filled by Ozzy’s drummer, a tattooed Jesus-lookalike who’s drum solo was one of the most asinine and embarrassing examples of devoid and empty showmanship in place of talent I’ve ever endured and the crowd loved it. It was infuriating.
To the lady next to me nothing got old. She played along with Ozzy Says for the whole show, swaying with every sway and digging out her lighter with each command while her kid sat slumping in the seat beside her. Indeed, much of the crowd was eating it all up with glee; the applause was consistent and deafening.
Overall I’m glad I went and I won’t go again. Fortunately the concert was in the same room where we had witnessed the Gold Medal hockey game at the 2010 Olympics so whenever I got bored with the show I re-imagined watching Sydney Crosby’s winning goal go in the net. Those were moments when to the casual observer I might have looked like the biggest Sabbath fan in the building, jumping up and down as I was and screaming with tears of joy rolling down my face.
After the show as we walked with the dispersing crowd we saw three guys who were wearing matching custom-made t-shirts, each with a different word on the back. As they walked ahead of us we could see their collective message and got the joke: “Geezer” was printed on the first shirt, “F***ing” on the next, and of course “Butler” was emblazoned on the third shirt. Black Sabbath fans are fun alright. Not so dark and Satanic, but certainly fun.
Then we drove 4,500 kilometres home.
(We were supposed to have one more show left on the itinerary: Neil Young and Crazy Horse at a single-day festival in-or-around Hamilton called Harvest Picnic on August 31st. Unfortunately the guitarist from Crazy Horse [Frank “Poncho” Sampedro] had injured his hand and the remainder of the tour was cancelled. Infuriatingly, of all the cancelled dates ours was the only show that didn’t offer a refund. The festival merely replaced Neil Young and Crazy Horse with Gordon Lightfoot and said all tickets were still valid. We didn’t go. Oh, I was so mad.)