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Concert Reviews:
Black Sabbath brings The End to Auburn Hills

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2016

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AUBURN HILLS -- Parting, the saying goes, can be such sweet sorrow.

But on Friday night, Feb. 19, at The Palace, Black Sabbath turned its The End farewell tour into a celebration -- albeit one steeped in a little bit of Satanic mechanics.

The venerable and hugely influential troupe, which laid the foundation for virtually every strain of heavy metal that follows in its wake 48 years ago, wasn't exactly bidding farewell to the Detroit area on Friday; Sabbath and well-received opener Rival Sons return Aug. 31 for a final show at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. So the 100-minute, 14-song show was standard issue Sabbath -- Spartan and leaden hard rock played with tight precision by bassist Geezer Butler, highly adrenalized Detroit-born drummer Tommy Clufetos and especially by guitar ace Tony Iommi, with keyboardist Adam Wakeman sequestered out of sight but still fattening the sound.

And frontman Ozzy Osbourne? Time, as we know, has not been good to the demonic persona turned reality TV star, and particularly not to his voice, which became increasingly amusical as the show went on. Osbourne compensated with his presence, prowling the stage in his particular Quasimodo style while exhorting the near-capacity Palace crowd like carnival barker, and prior to "Rat Salad" leading fans through a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Iommi, who turned 68 on Friday.

That was a rare show of sentiment, however. For the most part Sabbath simply plowed through its set, with no references to its long history of playing the metro area. Osbourne didn't even bother to acknowledge that the group was in Clufetos' home town when he introduced the drummer.

Despite several years of battling lymphoma Iommi was, fittingly enough, the star of the night, cranking out the legendary riffs of "Black Sabbath," "Warp Pigs," "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" and delivering nimble solos during "Into the Void," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "N.I.B." and "Dirty Women." The setlist, meanwhile, offered a balanced offering of favorites and rarities, focusing -- not coincidentally -- on Sabbath's first three albums, which were recently released in deluxe editions, but surprisingly not touching on 2015's Grammy Award-winning "13."

Some fire pots, a massive video screen at the rear of the stage and confetti shower during the encore of "Paranoid" gave the show some visual pizzazz, but those iconic songs were more than enough to carry the night on their own. Being able to hear them live is what we'll miss most when Sabbath takes its final bows this summer at DTE.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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