Ozzy Osbourne Toyota Center January 18, 2011
See more photos of the Ozzman, opener Slash and their fans in our slideshow.
How does he do it?
Say there's this musician who a) overindulged to such an extent for 30 years he made Caligula look like a Southern Baptist; b) left his genre-defining band, returned, got fired, became one of the most successful solo metal acts of all time, then reunited with that band again; and c) once snorted ants, for chrissake: how does he continue to go out and rock at 62 years of age?
That was the question on more than a few of our minds Tuesday night at the Toyota Center as metal patriarch Ozzy Osbourne brought his "Scream" tour to Houston. It was a show spanning the Prince of Darkness' 40-plus year career, and a few minor glitches aside, he delivered, to the delight of the assembled middle-aged metalheads (and their kids).
The tour is ostensibly in support of his latest album of the same name; however, Tuesday's night's set list only featured the opening track, "Let Me Hear You Scream," and Ozzy got it out of the way quickly by playing it second. The man knows his audience.
Aftermath is sure a sizable portion of the crowd faithfully buys every Ozzy release, but we're willing to bet the stuff in constant rotation on their MP3 players and disc changers is more likely old Sabbath, Blizzard of Ozz and The Ultimate Sin. To that end, they were treated to classics like "Mr. Crowley," "Shot in the Dark," "Paranoid" and "Suicide Solution." That last one is a bit of an interesting choice, given the song's history.
But there were also a few somewhat obscure selections, like Paranoid's satisfyingly crunchy "Fairies Wear Boots" and "Rat Salad," which gave drummer Tommy Clufetos and new guitarist Gus G. a chance to show their solo chops (and gave Ozz a chance to catch a breather).
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Calling Gus "new" is a bit disingenuous, given that he's been with Ozzy since 2009. It just seems that way since Zakk Wylde played with the guy for, like, 50 years. His latest band (including returning bassist Blasko and keyboardist Alan Wakeman, son of Rick) seems tighter and more aggressive than past incarnations; the result is a much gnarlier sound, which Ozzy fed off of admirably.
Wait, did we just say "gnarlier?" Yes we did, and we air-guitared to "Crazy Train" too. Fuck off.
There were also a couple songs we weren't expecting, given his previous set lists, including "Flying High Again" and "Into the Void," from Master of Reality. This replaced the usual selection, "N.I.B.," which was fine with us. All told, the crowd got a representative sampling of a heavy metal legend's career, and they ate it up.
One thing was hard to ignore, and that's the fact that our beloved Ozzy is getting old. Aftermath found ourselves recalling an old Bloom County strip that addressed this very issue:
And that was over 20 years ago. But you have to give the guy his due, the trademark wail is still there, and he really, sincerely appears to want us to go (fucking) crazy the entire time.
In fact, Ozzy's as enthusiastic on stage as ever, demanding that the crowd show him their (fucking) hands and repeatedly telling them "I can't (fucking) hear you!" (Though, to be fair, he probably can't). And how he still manages his trademark frog leaps is a mystery only painkillers and chiropractic medicine can solve.
It was hard to ignore the bank of teleprompters in front of him, however, or how his stage lackey dashed out to squeegee them clean every time Ozzy doused the crowd with his foam cannon. The drum riser behind him was packed with bottles of tea and what looked like Vitamin Water, and he tottered around the stage like a hobbit's grandma.
In spite of this, Ozzy doesn't show any signs of wanting to quit, even promising to come back to Houston next year and do it all again. Time will tell if he can deliver.
Consequences of a life spent selling your soul - and your body - to rock and roll.
Personal Bias: Honestly, while we've always been big fans of Sabbath, we kind of drifted out of the Ozz-fold after Bark at the Moon.
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The Crowd: Lots of dudes and ladies our age or older drinking way too much on a school night, and several kids enjoying a second Halloween.
Overheard In The Crowd: "OZ-ZY!"
Random Notebook Dump: Sorry Tommy, you're not a real rock and roll drummer until you knock over at least one of those goddamn bottles.