Review: Black Sabbath still the kings

22:47, Dec 10 2013
ROCKING ON: Black Sabbath front man Ozzy Osbourne.

The saying goes that "the old ones are the best" and never was there a truer meaning to it than last night at Auckland's Vector Area.

Ozzy Osbourne's private life may be providing the tabloid press with plenty fodder at the moment, but that was of little concern to the sea of black-clad masses that came to pay homage at the feet of Black Sabbath for the band's first New Zealand gig in 40 years.

With the crowd nicely warmed up thanks to a beautifully chunky set from Kiwi veterans Shihad, the stage was set for Sabbath to come forth and unleash the back catalogue that made them one of the true pioneers of the heavy metal genre.

You have to love Ozzy. There aren't many old rockers that could have bought into the risible world of MTV reality television and come out the other side retaining the respect of both peers and fans alike. 

Once the curtain dropped and the band launched into War Pigs you could see the man was in his element.

True, he's aged - much more so than bassist Geezer Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi. In fact when he ran across the stage it reminded you of your grandmother running to catch a bus, but he was willing to perform and, thankfully, able.

However, on a night when Sabbath proved just why they belong in the unique pantheon of true rock greats it was Iommi who stole the show. 

Long regarded by many as one of the best - if not the greatest - riff masters of all time, the guitarist showcased his talents with ease and composure. 

Dressed to impress like some kind of seductive dark lord, his masterclass made you realise that catching Sabbath at this stage in their long career was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The gig was by no means flawless, at times things seemed to go a little pear shaped - Symptom of the Universe, for example, seemed to end very abruptly. 

It was followed by an impressive drum solo by the ridiculously talented tour drummer Tommy Clufetos, however, most people seemed to be wondering where Ozzy and co. had hastily disappeared to for its lengthy duration. 

They were also probably wondering if the frontman was going to ask them if they were having a good night for the millionth time. A small gripe, but kind of grating nevertheless.

Thankfully they returned and launched into Iron Man, which quickly eased the worries of those in attendance. 

Highlights of the gig included Fairies Wear Boots, Snowblind, Black Sabbath, N.I.B and Children of the Grave while new numbers such as End of the Beginning and God is Dead showed the band has no intention of veering from the path that's brought them so much success for nearly half a century.

The clichéd goodbye at the end of the night was soon followed by the obligatory encore - Paranoid - which predictably brought the house down. 

There was even a tease of the wonderful Sabbath Bloody Sabbath but sadly the band cut it short.

There have been many pretenders to the heavy metal throne since this lot came on the scene so many moons ago but on last night's evidence it's easy to see why many rival but very few surpass.