I thought this review had been lost. I wrote it in 1995, saved it to floppy disc, later uploaded it to a site called sabbathlive…and when that site disappeared I assumed my review was lost too. I was wrong!
Guest contributor Holen MaGroin somehow, and with great effort, retrieved the text. You can compare this with the version I wrote from memory back in 2012. I’m very grateful to have this back, one of the earliest reviews I ever wrote. For the record the friends I was with included Iron Tom Sharpe but I can’t remember who else might have gone that night. It was the night that made me into a Motorhead fan.
This is my first time reading it in decades, so this is almost as new to me as it is to you! I will leave everything as-is. I can tell that the review is mostly original with a couple sentences added later on when I uploaded it to sabbathlive. I will put that text in a lighter colour.
The biggest difference between the 1995 review and the rewrite I posted in 2012 seems to be my impression of Tony Martin. Here I call him “wonderful” and in the version I rewrote from memory, I called him “so-so”.
I arrived at Lulu’s with my friends at 9pm sharp, to find a nicely filled hall. Not too cramped yet at this early hour. Upon our arrival, we were informed that we had missed opening act Tiamat. None of us cared too much. While my friends were there to see Motorhead, I was there to see Black Sabbath.
Motorhead hit the stage on full octane with “Ace Of Spades”. From there on, it was no remorse (pun fully intended). Lemmy looks old, Phil Campbell looks old, but they played like teenagers, and it was refreshing to see. Lem and Phil’s onstage banter was funny as hell, and drummer Mikkey Dee (easily one of the fasted double-bass drummers in the world) was unreal. The highlights of Motorhead’s set were easily “Killed By Death”, “Iron Fist”, “I’m So Bad Baby I Don’t Care”, and the brand new “Sacrifice”. (Lem: “This song is so fucking fast, don’t try to dance
to it or you’ll break both your fucking legs!”) Every single song they played sounded terrific. Exciting riffs, awesome double bass, and cool vocals – if you can call them that. I’m now converted to the gospel of Motorhead: These guys are simply awesome.
The crowd received them very well. I think Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey looked pleased by both the turnout and the response to their set. Lem said he’d come back to play here “any fucking time”, but don’t they all say that?
This time it seemed they meant it. [NOTE: Motorhead did indeed come back to Lulu’s the next year.]
We went back to check out the T-shirts and hats. I really liked the new Black Sabbath FORBIDDEN T-shirts, which had the cartoon cover art. Even a hat would have been nice to own, but I was short on cash. I didn’t even have the $25 to cover a Sabbath hat. D’oh!
We decided at this point to try to stand at the front of the stage for Black Sabbath’s set. We had kind of figured that most people in Kitchener were there to see Motorhead, not Sabbath, and the crowd would thin out a little bit. We were totally wrong. It didn’t take long for the crowd to grow, and thicken in front of the stage.
We grabbed an awesome spot right up front, in between where the two Tony’s – Martin and Iommi – would be. However, this would not be the night to be standing close to Black Sabbath. I’m from small-town Ontario, and rough mosh pits were not what we were used to. During Motorhead’s set the crowd stood there politely, cheered madly after each song, and were generally well behaved, which is the way we liked it. We came to see the band, and hear the music, after all.
The first sign of trouble was when a fight broke out right behind us. A small Cobain-ish kid began pushing around a very large (we’re talking pro-wrestler large) man, who didn’t take it all that well. One headbutt later, the small kid was on the ground bleeding, and the large guy was out the door before security even noticed what had happened. They collected what was left of Cobain.
At 11:30 this was all forgotten. Black Sabbath hit the stage with a powerful version of “Children Of The Grave”. Tony Martin gave the song a fierce energy.
The first thing I noticed was that Tony Martin looked a lot older than I expected. I hadn’t seen any decent pictures of Black Sabbath for a couple years. Martin has small but friendly looking eyes, and receding hair. He sported an evil looking goatee, a long black shirt, black jeans and boots. By contrast, for some reason Tony Iommi looked a lot younger than I expected. He smiled a lot, and even moved around a bit on stage. This is Tony Iommi, the man known for staying riveted in one spot on stage!
Cozy Powell looked the same as he always has, same hair and all, although he did look a little chubbier in the face. Neil Murray looked identical to the way he looked in the “Feels Good To Me” video, five years previous. Keyboardist Geoff Nicholls was partly hidden on side stage. Why Black Sabbath don’t put him up front on the main stage is a mystery to me, he’s been in the band for 15 years now! However, the first thing that hit me about the rarely-seem Nicholls was that he was trying to look hip with his dyed blonde hair.
The set list included all the following songs, although I may have the order somewhat jumbled:
“Children Of The Grave”, “Neon Knights”, “The Shining”, “Get A Grip”, “The Wizard”, “Headless Cross”, “Rusty Angels”, “Can’t Get Close Enough”, “When Death Calls”, War Pigs”, “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath”, “Black Sabbath”, “Heaven And Hell”, “Mob Rules”.
Encore: “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, “Heaven And Hell” [reprise]
I felt that Tony Martin was a wonderful frontman. He has his own style. During the instrumental sections of songs, he would back up a few steps, spread his arms like he was awaiting the coming of Christ, and shake his hair about. While singing, he makes eyes contact with you. He smiles a lot. He enjoys what he does. I genuinely felt like the smiles that Iommi and Martin gave off were real, and that’s the real reason that Black Sabbath are still around 25 years later. These guys just love playing music. Cozy Powell and Neil Murray were more reserved, but Iommi and Martin, the core of Sabbath, were happy just being up there.
All the Ozzy-era classics were received with tremendous cheers by the crowd. Tony Martin allowed the crowd to sing most of the lyrics to “War Pigs”. The Dio-era songs were met with equal excitement. Most people in our area on the floor sang along to every word. All the later material was drawn from Tony Martin’s albums, though nothing from the excellent TYR or CROSS PURPOSES, which I found disappointing. However, as Martin said during the set, Black Sabbath have over 200 songs in the catalogue,and you can’t play them all.
They played three of the best songs from the new FORBIDDEN album: “Get A Grip”, “Rusty Angels” and “Can’t Get Close Enough”. They were played well, I felt they sounded better than the album versions. For the “Can’t Get Close Enough” sections of dark fingerpicked guitar, Iommi switched from his Gibson to an unusual make of guitar that I’d never seen before and couldn’t identify.
The highlight of the set for myself was “The Shining”. It had always been my favourite Tony Martin-era song, and I was not disappointed. The surprise was that a lot of people in the audience also seemed to know that song. “Headless Cross” was played equally well, and I was amazed with how rich Tony Iommi’s guitar sounds live. However, this song demonstrated how much vocal range Tony Martin has lost in recent years. He could not hit the high notes. (Play the original and see how high he gets!) Instead, he sang an octave lower. Again, most people seemed to
know this song.
“When Death Calls” came as a surprise, since it was never released as a video like the other Martin-era songs. On the way to the show I said I wanted to hear some obscure 80’s Sabbath, and I got it!
The crowd just ate it up, everything Sabbath served, they ate up and asked for seconds. When the moshing began, I was a bit surprised, and made way further back so as to not avoid injury. A lot of people came out of that show limping, and I didn’t really feel like being one of them.
If I was the only person there surprised by the moshing, it looked like the stage-diving took even the band by surprise! When the first gentleman made his way onto the stage, Tony Martin appeared shocked and backed up a few steps. After this, a security guy parked himself on stage and pushed off every guy who made it up there. It was kind of strange seeing a security guy crouching on stage in front of Martin.
Sabbath ruled. They simply ruled. For sheer intensity they couldn’t match Motorhead, but they held their own. The set list was about as perfect as you could make it, since it’s impossible to squeeze in too many more. After all, the band couldn’t avoid the classics in order to play more material from the 90’s. It was also nice to finally hear Tony Martin’s live renditions of those classics. He really did an excellent job and I hope one day they’ll commit his voice to a live album.*
This was my first time seeing Black Sabbath live. Seeing them so close to home in such a small venue really was an amazing experience. I hope it’s not the last.**
* Cross Purposes Live was released in 1995 in Europe only.
** It was.