HOLMDEL, NJ—Growing up, I was introduced to music through my father’s vinyl collection, where I first heard bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I was lucky enough to listen to groups of this caliber at such a young age. No matter what “new” band I would discover, I would always revert back to Sabbath. I eventually began my own collection and one of the first albums I was able to pick up was Black Sabbath’s self-titled record. The title-track began with the sound of rain and thunder coming through the speakers and it always mesmerized me, left me needing more. Through all of their trials and tribulations, the band found a way to hit the road in support of their latest record, 13. One of the stops along the East Coast was the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. I immediately ordered tickets and couldn’t wait to hear “Black Sabbath” and more performed by the original lineup, minus drummer Bill Ward.
Sunday, Aug. 4, was the day of the concert, and the weather was perfect. It wasn’t too hot or humid, and there was no rain in sight. En route to find a parking spot in the venue, New York and New Jersey license plates littered the lots as burgers were being flipped and footballs were being thrown around. Some arrived as early as noon so they could blast Sabbath from their cars and hang out with their friends, while others hoped to find last-minute tickets. The grass lots filled up quick as attendees made their own spots and set up camp for a few hours. As it got closer to 7:30, fans hopped on the yellow school busses they took years ago and arrived at the gates. Outside, others finished their drinks with Into The Void, the Black Sabbath tribute band. Over the next hour, the audience would be exposed to countless hard rock favorites by the DJ of the night, Andrew W.K.
Everyone reveled in excitement as red sirens started to go off. This legendary act began their 18-song set with one of their most popular tracks, “War Pigs.” The crowd cheered and threw their hands in the air as Tony Iommi’s solo closed out the song. Filled with driving riffs, signature solos and pummeling drums, “Into The Void” and “Under The Sun” set the pace of the show. It was to be a near two-hour experience with Iommi, frontman Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Tommy Clufetos. Thunder and rain started to play over the speakers before the band jumped into “Black Sabbath.” Strangers were high-fiving as that slow but daunting riff played over the speakers. Heads were moving up and down everywhere as they broke out into “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” and “N.I.B.” No matter where you were in the stadium—the orchestra seating, the back of the lawn or even on line for the bathroom—Ozzy commanded the audience, feeding off the energy and waving his hands high in the air. Every move Ozzy would make, the crowd would emulate in awing fashion.
The group started to play “Rat Salad” as Clufetos went into a drum solo. He displayed his chops for about five minutes, giving Ozzy and the rest of the band a break. As Geezer, Tony and Ozzy came back on stage, the bass drum kicked off “Iron Man” and had fans on their feet. “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Paranoid” were two songs that were also played from the band’s monstrous sophomore effort. In addition to some of their earliest works, Sabbath also played tracks from their latest LP, 13. “Age Of Reason,” “God Is Dead?” and “End Of The Beginning” from the new record all had their turn on stage that night.
It didn’t matter what album the songs came from. It didn’t matter where in the venue you sat or stood. All that mattered was that Tony, Ozzy and Geezer were doing their thing. They were healthy and commanded the stage as if it were the ‘70s again. For some, this was their first Black Sabbath concert. For others, it was their first in years, maybe decades. One thing is for certain: This band has been around for years, and they show no signs of stopping. While they hope to work on a new album after the tour, they will be back. Their performance on Sunday, Aug. 4, left me the same way “Black Sabbath” did upon first listen: wanting more. Until next time, I’ll just take out that vinyl, place it on the turntable, and let the needle drop.