Black Sabbath / Fear Factory

Birmingham NEC

Dec 5 1997

The NEC, indeed all arenas, should be bombed. The most unatmospheric places I can think of for gigs, even the Moon would be better. About 20 rows from the front, but you can't go to the pit, you have to stay in your nice, regular space. The same as everyone else. As a result it means that by the time I've actually found where I'm allowed to stand, nah mate, you don't go here, go all the way around again, in through that door and they'll direct you Fear Factory are playing to one of the most apathetic responses known to mankind. There looks like there's 2 rows of fans in where a pit should be. That's not to say there are no fans, just none can get near them to create an atmosphere, which Burton senses. You don't give a fuck do you. They shouldn't have played these gigs, no one should. So no point really reviewing them under such circumstances. Abominations arenas, all of them.

Black Sabbath. Legends. And rightly so. But reunion tours. Aaaaargh. This is tricky. As a rule, I don't like reunion tours. I had the, erm, pleasure of seeing Kiss last year at Donington, and to be honest, I thought it was some of the worst shit I've seen in a long time. But that's partly because I'm not a fan of the band. Sabbath on the other hand, I've never seen before in the original line up, so I was excited about this, but purely for selfish reasons. The, you want to like it, but ... syndrome.

Anyway, the set list. I can't remember it all, but something like War Pigs, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Fairys wear Boots, Into The Void, Electric Funeral, Dirty Women, N.I.B, Sweatleaf, Snowblind, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Iron Man, Children of the Grave, and more. Basically, a list of great great music. Which was performed well. Bill Ward was great. The stage set was Heavy Metal, in fact, it was so metal it even had a few !!!!'s. But it was all put on extremely well. Paranoid was the sole encore. Ozzy was Ozzy, just like a solo show, same moves, same chat, same encouragement of the crowd. The crowd, such as they can be in such a bollocks venue, lap it up. But was it legendary? Should it have happened? I don't know.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was a mess, Ozzy wasn't able to hit the high notes, so sang it in a lower range or something, Paranoid was messy. See, the thing is, music is timeless. This music is timeless, and will always be legendary. But people are not timeless. There is an element that when you get past the 'wow, it's the ORIGINAL Sabs' it's like, but it's not absolutely perfect. And that's what you want, what you expect. Because they are legendary. But because people aren't timeless, they can never be perfect, they can never be what you really expect and demand. The music can, people can't. And that's why I'm not sure on reunions. Sure, you can pick holes in the set, really wanted to hear this, or that, or the other. That doesn't matter. The classics were never supposed to be heard in an enormodome, with no atmosphere, where people are restricted in all that they can do. They were supposed to be heard in small venues, where people truly can go fucking crazy.

Bottom line, the music is great. Was, is and will remain. Would I see them again though now. At this cost, and in this kind of venue? No. I satisfied my own ego, which after all, is what it's about if we're being really honest. We don't want reunions for the music, we want them for ourselves, for our egos. So now that done, well what is there? If they played a UK tour of smaller venues, maybe I would go, Ok, I'd definitely go, because then a real atmosphere would be generated, music played where it should be. Should they do another album together? No in my opinion. That really is the best way to start destroying a legend. Live gigs of legendary stuff is ok, just, trying to recreate a legend in the studio though, where all the variables that surrounded the initial creation have totally changed. I just don't think it would work. It would be like Metallica trying to do a new Kill 'Em All in 98. The music might be there, but that inner something, be it aggression, resentment, finding your feet in a scary world, lack of money and food, whatever, that made it so special and unique in the first place just isn't there now. It just doesn't work. I so wanted to say this was gig of the year. But it wasn't. It was a nostalga trip, and the legend of Sabbath doesn't deserve, or need that.

And selling Ozzy Osbourne Holy Water at 2 pounds per bottle is just a joke. And a sick one at that.