BLACK SABBATH – Live…Gathered In Their Masses (2013 CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set)
Any time a classic rock band releases new music and goes back on tour, there has to be a live album to go with it these days. Actually, to be more accurate in the current age it’s more likely to be some kind of CD/DVD combo pack. This deluxe of Live…Gathered In Their Masses contains 1 CD, 1 Blu-ray, and 2 DVDs.
The visual program opens with a collage of pre-gig ritiual. The band arrive, and get ready in their own dressing rooms, the cameras offering a brief intimate glimpse. Before too long, the air raid sirens of “War Pigs” brings us to the stage. The Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous. Every line on every face is visible, every grain on Tony’s Gibson SG, and the stage is gorgeously lit. It’s a beautiful disc to watch in 1080p. I couldn’t help myself; I sat there playing air drums, and putting my hands in the air when Ozzy commanded. It was fun!
Ozzy hops about, but most exciting visually is unofficial member Tommy Clufetos. I wonder if it’s intentional, but he definitely resembles a young Bill Ward circa 1976 (as long as he keeps his shirt on). And Tony? He smiles, a lot. You would too if you’ve been through what he has I imagine! Ozzy’s already dumped a bucket of water over his head before they get to the second song, a sludgy “Into the Void”. I think the temptation is often to play this song a little faster live, but this version is very much in pace with the deliberately slow original.
My cell phone ring tone these days is that riff from “Loner”, one of the best songs from 13. Unfortunately, the fact that this is a new song means Ozzy’s rivited to one place on stage, concentrating on the words, glancing at the floor. Even so, Ozzy remains a mesmerizing presence. Another bucket of water, and Ozzy’s the cheeleading frontman again. The bonus interview on the disc, by the way, reveals why Ozzy really douses himself in water! (You probably don’t want to know.) “Snowblind” then erupts, Ozzy hitting the high notes with cracking but real voice! (That’s the part that counts.) Tony’s extended guitar solo is a stunner in itself.
The rain and tolling bells of “Black Sabbath” sound great on blu-ray, though I was hoping to hear more stuff going on behind me in the 5.1 mix. “Black Sabbath” is the standard workout, no surprises here. Likewise, “N.I.B.” is very much the traditional Sabbath version, even down to each note of Tony’s solo. Ozzy somehow manages to still be menacing behind the mic. “Methademic” is one of the new songs again, but oddly it’s a only bonus track on the deluxe versions of 13. This is a song that resembles Dio-era Sabbath and would have sounded at home on Dehumanizer or The Devil You Know. With Ozzy behind the mic, it’s still classic Sabbath. I think it’s a great number, only weakened live by Ozzy struggling through the wordy lyrics.
Oz doesn’t seem to have trouble with the old favourite “Fairies Wear Boots”. His wail of “Allllllright now!” looms, and out comes the water again! “Symptom Of the Universe” then stomps on the stage. This is the song that Clufetos can really sink his chops in. He’s obviously not Bill Ward, but I like his interpretation of Bill’s parts. They’re as close to the mark as any other Sabbath drummer’s parts, if not more. Tommy gets an extended drum solo too, during “Symptom”, not bad for an unofficial member! Mrs. LeBrain called the solo “Sweet!”
A drum solo naturally suits “Iron Man” to segue into. “Iron Man” is wooden, Clufetos unable to cop Bill Ward’s loose feel. It’s still “Iron Man”, a song Black Sabbath have probably played live at every show since ’72, but it’s not definitive. Only when the song gets up to speed does it become the beast it should be. Another new song, the deliberately vintage sounding “End of the Beginning” takes over, but it’s not the song I would have chosen to play at this point of the set. Not only is it too similar to “Black Sabbath” but it slows the set down too much so close to the end. It does pick up, but I feel it would have worked better closer to the start of the show.
Ozzy then teases out that they will only play one more song, unless the crowd goes “extra crazy”. This “final” song is the storming “Children of the Grave.” The audience bounces like a wave in sync with the classic tune, led by an energized Ozzy. I detected some clever editing here to make it appear that Ozzy is jumping around more than he actually is, but that’s video. One pretty thing about this song is the appearance of Tony’s old cream Gibson SG, paint cracked and chipping. Blu-ray allows you to see every scratch in the paint.
The crowd goes “extra crazy” and then Ozzy says they’ll play one more song. It’s “God Is Dead?”, the excellent first single from 13. Clufetos nails the stuttering drum roll, but Ozzy’s back to reading lyrics off the floor, which is distracting. But does anyone actually believe it is the last song; that they won’t play “Paranoid”? Of course they play it, and the riff from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” too. It’s the quintessential closer, ending the concert as a party, not a session of pure doom! Clufetos and Ozzy are quite animated on “Paranoid”, and of course Ozzy reminds the crowd that they are “number one”! I just wish Tommy would pull up his pants. Fuck, I wish I could fit into that size!
The DVD and Blu-ray versions contain three bonus tracks. “Under the Sun” is a nice one to pull out of the hat. Ozzy handles the difficult vocals without issue. How does he do it? You can hear his voice cracking from time to time; it sounds live. “Dirty Women” is a personal favourite of mine. This is an interesting version. It’s the one that Spotify have as their own exclusive bonus track to 13. I already had an audio copy of this bonus track, but Blu-ray is cool, too. It’s a damn great rendition of a lost classic from Technical Ecstasy. “Electric Funeral” is the big surprise, a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard played live. Ozzy really struggles with the words on “Electric Funeral” but it’s a treat.
Elsewhere on the disc, there are more bonus features. I have to say the Blu-ray menu is an annoying, repeating tolling bell. Leaving the menu running unattended for more than 60 seconds is an excersize in testing your patience. In the bonus features, the Sabbath interview is typically low key. You know what to expect: a difficult to understand Ozzy, and a soft spoken Tony, with occasional comments from Geezer. There’s not too much here in the way of revelations. Vegetable juice and food have replaced vodka and a line before the show, although Geezer still drinks wine. How scandalous! I don’t know who the interviewer is, but he’s very good at getting the band involved and in good humour.
Lastly there’s a feature called “Show Day”. This is a behind the scenes look at the goings-on in the 24 hours before the show in Melbourne. I love it!
Ozzy: “You know what I was looking at, the old re-runs of the Twilight Zone.”
Geezer: “You told me that about 40 times.”
Ozzy: “Sorry. Trying to make conversation.”
Even Joe Perry and Steven Tyler show up backstage. I enjoy watching Joe and Tony chatting…what a meeting of guitar greats in one room.
The packaging for this box set is loaded with goodies. I always enjoy some complimentary guitar picks. There’s one here from Tony, and one from Geezer. There’s also a replica concert ticket, setlist, and a small poster. Nothing to get too excited about, but when you buy an expensive box set it’s nice to get these added touches as a bonus. There’s also two DVDs included with the same content as Blu-ray. That’s extraneous to me, I may never play them, so they’re sealed. I don’t have a problem with that, but I do wish they didn’t edit the CD version of the concert down to fit on one CD. I’m pleased that the CD version contains all the new songs, but for the price of this set relative to the cheap cost of a CD, I don’t know why they couldn’t just make it a 2 CD set. That part is disappointing. When I buy a deluxe edition, I want the whole thing on CD.
That niggle aside, Black Sabbath Live…Gathered In Their Masses is worth: