Nov 29, 2010

Ozzy / Rob Halford - First Mariner Arena

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

OZZY OSBOURNE / HALFORD

November 29, 2010

Baltimore, Maryland

Before you read this review I will set it up by stating that this ENTIRE piece was written from the vantage point of a Heavy Metal fan....I was NOT given a free ticket to review this show, I was NOT given a photo pass to take professional pictures...I used my $$ to buy a ticket, wrote this review on MY time because I am a fan of this music & when I had 2 Heavy Metal icons playing a show in my backyard you better believe I was there to cover it for my site, www.rocknrollexperience.com

With that being said, the night of the show started off funny because I was approached by a ticket scalper outside the show, he had a ton o' tickets for sale & I wasn't planning on buying a ticket from a scalper, I was planning on buying a ticket from the box office because the show was far from sold out, but the scalper that started to talk to me as I approached Baltimore's First Mariner Arena was definitely looking to sell his tickets!

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The guy was wearing all black & what made me a little cautious of him was the black knit cap that he wore on his head that reminded me of what a stereotypical cat burglar might wear...the guy seemed ready to make a sale though & after I told him no, no, no to all his offers he said, "Ok, let's negotiate...what do you want to pay?"

"I have $40 to spend." was my offer & the guy pulled out a 5th row, center, floor ticket....he goes, "You're getting one helluva deal here!" & he handed me the 5th row floor ticket for my wadded up double $20 bills. Considering that ticket cost over $80 with service charges & online scalpers were asking over $200 for tickets in that area I KNEW I had just made an amazing deal!

Entering the arena was honestly the most lax thing ever...it was almost hard to believe this was even a metal show...the crowd was older, polite, mellow, there was NO pit & upon entering the floor area where my seat was, Rob Halford was already into his set & it was actually quite cool to have Rob performing in the background as I made my way closer & closer to the stage on my quest to find my seat!

Holy crap, when you set 5th row, dead center at a concert you honestly have one of the BEST seats in the entire venue & I'll explain why:

Front row is as close as it get, BUT, it's almost too close because when you are front row you can't always see the entire stage, all the pyro, all the background, all the players onstage & sometimes the sound isn't a proper mix because you are hearing the monitors more than the overall Arena sound.

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At 5th row, center you are really close, you can make eye contact with the artists still, see the ENTIRE stage, hear the entire sound, & 5th row is honestly a great spot to see the entire show, all the players onstage & all the production happening onstage.

Rob Halford's set on this night was not amazing & I heard others in the crowd saying the same thing I thought...the sound mix was crappy!

Rob's vocals were way too low, the guitars were not always clear enough to hear, the drums sounded muddy & it's sad that Halford suffered from bad sound because watching Mike & Roy play guitar it was clear that they were damn good players, just the mix was crappy!

I Have to be honest with something: Rob's stage presence is not as good when he's not decked out in leather! There, I said it, it's out there!

www.rocknrollexperience.com The thing is, Rob Halford made his mark in the metal world as an almost Village People styled "biker" decked out in all leather, studs & looking ultra butch, but at this show Mr. Halford wore jeans & a black long sleeved Halford "Made in Metal" shirt & NO leather garb at all!

To the Halford bands credit, they all dressed the part of rock star, Metal Mike, Roy & Mike were all sporting button-up shirts that were decked out with pyramid studs and patches & they all had leather pants or rocker jeans....Rob looked more like he had just gotten off work at the steel mill than a rockstar & when he's not in the leather I will admit that his stage presence is NOT the same!

Halford's set list was interesting for an arena show...an arena show is usually about "Arena Rock" meaning you play the "hits" you are known for...Rob did one Fight song, "Nailed To The Gun", which I LOVED!, but there were NO Judas Priest "hits" played..."The Green Manalishi" & "Diamonds and Rust" were played, BUT, those were deep fan favorites & NOT the songs most Priest fans wanted to hear....on one hand I give it to Rob for NOT caving in & doing a set of "hits", but then again, to play a set of stuff that an arena crowd doesn't necessarily know is quite the risk.

Rob's stage demeanor this night was very different than most lead singers...not all, but most lead singers will stake out their claim to that center spot in the front of the stage...on this night though Rob was more on stage left & stage right than dead center. What I mean by that statement is that Rob prances about the stage, he goes from side to side, quite often his eyes are totally closed as he screams his vocals, & when he takes a break from singing to allow a guitar solo Rob usually stands on the side of the stage & watches the guitar solos instead of going back to the center of the stage & awaiting his cue to start singing again.

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Rob Halford needs Judas Priest & Judas Priest needs Rob Halford, that's what I took away from Rob's opening set. The band was good, but it was no different than any other local metal band you might see in every city, in every town across the United States.

Seeing Rob Halford opening for Ozzy Osbourne reminded me of a few years prior when I saw Sebastian Bach opening for AXL's Guns N Roses....Sebastian Bach, Rob Halford, AXL Rose & Ozzy Osbourne.....4 guys who fronted 4 of the best Metal bands EVER, yet on their own the ONLY one who did it "Right" was Ozzy & I make that statement based on the fact that after Ozzy left Black Sabbath he managed to establish himself as a "solo" artist, he acquired some of the best musicians he could find & he actually had "hits" that were bigger than the material he performed with Black Sabbath...I would probably respect AXL Rose more if he had gone the "Solo" route & let the name "Guns N Roses" die but that's a different subject.

Halford's set ended with "Cyberworld" & then the stage was broken down to accommodate Ozzy.

Ozzy's stage set up was nothing super elaborate...there was a small amount of pyro used during the show, there was a decent amount of "production", but it wasn't as over the top as a KISS concert by any means.

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Ozzy's set list for the night was a bit shorter than what he'd been performing on this particular leg of his current tour...this night he performed:



Bark at the Moon

Let Me Hear You Scream

Mr. Crowley

I Don't Know

Fairies Wear Boots

Suicide Solution

Road to Nowhere

War Pigs

Fire in the Sky

Shot in the Dark

Rat Salad (w/ Guitar And Drum Solos)

Iron Man

I Don't Want to Change the World

Crazy Train

Encore:

Mama, I'm Coming Home

Paranoid


The arena was FAR from sold out, the entire upper level was a ghost town, the floor was packed, the lower concourse had a decent amount of people, but by NO MEANS was this a sold out show!

Ozzy's set started with a mini-movie featuring clips of Ozzy intertwined in pop culture TV, movies & videos. Ozzy was in Avatar as a Blue Creature, he argued with Snookie from Jersey Shore, he was "Doug" from The Hangover, & he made a cameo in a Lady Gaga video, then the video screen went dark, the crowd started to scream & Ozzy took the stage opening with "Bark at the Moon"!

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I had read numerous reviews for this tour...some were good, some were bad, some were indifferent, BUT, to Ozzy's credit, he was in good spirits, he was coherent, he wasn't the bumbling fool so many people made him out to be...atleast not on this particular night of the tour!

Ozzy looked a little heavier weight wise from the last time I saw his live show, but this was hands down the best Ozzy performance I've EVER seen!

Up close I can tell you first hand that Ozzy DOES NOT read all the lyrics off a teleprompter! Indeed, there is a cheat sheet of scrolling lyrics in the center of the stage, BUT, on this night Ozzy was looking at the crowd, smiling, laughing, pointing, blowing kisses, waving & interacting with everyone he could see from the stage...he DID read some lyrics but he wasn't reading lyrics like an anchor on the News, I think more than anything the scrolling lyrics were needed for those parts of the show where he got caught up in the moment, drowned the crowd & himself with foam and/or water, or where he just had such a blast dancing around that he forgot his place in the song.

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Ozzy's stage moves are still the same, he's got that Richard Nixon peace sign thing he does, he does a very Charles Manson-ish jig, the leap frog happens occasionally & buckets of water are used throughout the night!

"Mr. Crowley" was the first song to feature the foam gun & midway through this ode to Aleister the first few rows got their first taste of being covered in foam!

I give it to Ozzy, being covered in foam is not as bad as having a bucket of water tossed on you...the foam actually dries fairly fast & it doesn't leave you wet & cold...instead the foam dries fairly fast & leaves your clothes & hair un-soaked.

When Ozzy introduced new guitarist Gus G. he prefaced it by stating that over the years he's had the best guitarists in the world & he named Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde & then introduced the crowd to Gus.

What I will say about Gus G. is that, the guy CAN play, BUT, he's NOT in the league of players Ozzy mentioned & as a fan, I think Gus G. will be remembered like Joe Holmes was...the Ozzy freaks will note that Brad Gillis was in Ozzy's band too but Brad Gillis isn't referenced as often as Rhoads, Lee or Wylde.... Gus G., while he's a great player, he just doesn't add anything "new" to the live show & his presence is NOT as large as Zakk Wylde's.

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Zakk Wylde is equal parts Ted Nugent & Randy Rhoads; Zakk has a large presence....Gus G. seems lost in the background in the context of things & maybe that's what Ozzy wants, a backing band where no one is larger than Ozzy, BUT, Gus played his parts flawless, yet added nothing different to the stage show...infact, keyboardist Adam Wakeman actually played as a 2nd guitarist onstage during a few songs & in all the years I've seen Ozzy's live shows this was the ONLY time I've ever seen Ozzy have 2 guitarist onstage....I guess it took 2 guys to do what Zakk Wylde did? Gus even pulled out the Zakk Wylde squeals in random parts, but the moment of the show where I TRULY missed Zakk was when they played "Mama, I'm Coming Home" & it's simply because that song IS Zakk Wylde....Ozzy dedicated that song to his wife, but it felt weird hearing Gus play Zakk's parts.

Ozzy's rhythm section was stolen from Rob Zombie and drummer Tommy Clufetos definitely channels the spirit of old school Bill Ward when he plays!

Tommy is a monster drummer & during his drum solo he has a drum kit that appears to fly to the top of the arena & it's something that KISS did for years, yet it works perfectly in an arena rock setting.

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"Suicide Solution" was one of my favorite songs of the night & I'll say that Ozzy's performance throughout this entire show was damn good....his voice actually sounded good, there was no major flubs, his voice was as strong, he ran around the stage, smiled, interacted with his band & the fans and I can only speak for the show I saw....Ozzy Osbourne gave Baltimore a really great show on 11/29/10 & shortly after 10:30 PM it was all over, but for those in attendance it was a memory they will NEVER forget!