Merry Mayhem Tour

Let's take a trip back to 1984: Reagan-era conservatism is in full swing; Duran Duran and Culture Club rule MTV; but a large subculture of American teens are still binge drinking, smoking weed and listening to loud rock 'n' roll. That year, thousands of these longhaired hedonists poured into the Astrodome to see Ozzy Osbourne play the Texxas Jam. Many of those same fans, who haven't outgrown their taste for Ozzy's hellish rock, will head to Compaq Center for this bill featuring Osbourne, Rob Zombie and Mudvayne.

It's something of a miracle that the man who once drunkenly gnawed the head off a bat, snorted a line of live ants and piddled on the Alamo is still alive, much less a hot commodity, more than 30 years after his band took blues rock and melted it down into heavy metal.

Some may question the Ozz-man's enduring popularity, but there's no arguing the brilliance of some of his works, namely the first four Black Sabbath records and his first two post-Sabbath efforts, Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. More recently Ozzy's stuff has been pretty hit-or-miss (much of the time the latter), but his unique vocal style, balancing banshee wails with robotic dictation, makes even his dumbest songs listenable.

Much credit is due to Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's ballsy wife/manager of 20 years. Every day, Mrs. Osbourne dresses the scatterbrained rocker who once attempted to murder her. She's been known to jab a kneecap into the groins of promoters who try to mess with her hubby's money. She's also smart enough to keep Ozzy on the radar by touring him with whomever Gen X or Gen Y is digging at the time.

Lately, the "Y" kids have been into Mudvayne, the costumed thrashers from Peoria, Illinois, who clearly have taken cues from fellow monster-masked Midwesterners, Slipknot. Schlock value aside, the band's music has the volume and energy to make for an entertaining opening set. And if the potency of its Sony debut, LD 50, is any indication, this band may be destined for headlining status.

Sharing top billing with Ozzy is Rob Zombie, the man who could have been king had he not broken up White Zombie. He and his cohorts were all over MTV about five years ago, even closing out the network's video awards ceremony. Since going solo, Zombie's sales haven't dropped off (his Hellbilly Deluxe outsold any White Zombie record), but it has to be said that his former outfit had a better bite. The bouncy "More Human Than Human" grew on even the most biased listeners.

The Merry Mayhem tour appears to have the same ingredients that made the Texxas Jams such memorable events. No, Rush and Uriah Heep won't be there, but fans young and old can still expect noise, debauchery and fun galore.

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Mike Emery