Sound: Hartford - "I'm back," announced Ozzy Osbourne much like he had in years past, but this time the Ozzman brought along some old friends. Ozzy Osbourne reunited with his groundbreaking metal band Black Sabbath for a downright old school Ozzfest 2004 which also featured other nostalgic metal acts like Judas Priest and Slayer as well as newer acts like Slipknot, Superjoint Ritual and Black Label Society. But the real news was Osbourne's return to Sabbath. The unofficial king of metal once again found himself singing with Sabbath's original lineup: drummer Bill Ward, bassist "Geezer" Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi. // 8
Perfomance: As a group, Black Sabbath created, or at least defined, popular heavy metal music. And so Saturday night found them defining this year's kickoff of Ozzfest at the CTNOW Meadows Music Center before a thoroughly sold-out crowd of dedicated metal heads. Sabbath opened its 60-minute set with its 1971 metal masterpiece "War Pigs" from the classic album "Paranoid." "War Pigs" sounded as pertinent and vital Saturday as it had over 30 years ago thanks in part to the giant screen behind the band that projected images of war and less than subtle images of our current president, George W. Bush (including a shot of HIM wearing a superimposed red clown nose). "I didn't die Christmas" said Osbourne, referring to his near-fatal ATV accident this past winter, "and I'm not dying now - I've got too much rocking to do!" // 10
Overall Impression: Though Osbourne's voice has never been brilliant, it sounded a bit weak, but not as weak as one might have thought not that long after such a serious accident. What's more, Iommi's guitar playing was as strong and riff-filled as always, providing just the right amount of oomph to Sabbath's vintage material. Other highlights included the band's epic namesake "Black Sabbath" and the slightly more forgettable tune "Snowblind" from the 1972 album "Black Sabbath, Vol. 4." However, it was the natural set-closer "Iron Man" that truly stole the show. Though its place at the end of the set was predictable, it was nonetheless enjoyable. Fans reveled to see metal's first great bands perform one of metal's most enduring songs.
Still, Sabbath wasn't the only reunion Saturday night. Their fellow Brits from Judas Priest gave it another go, performing their own hard-rocking 75-minute set. Priest ran through most of its dark classics including "Living After Midnight" from 1980's "British Steel" and "Victim of Changes" from 1976's "Sad Wings of Destiny." But it was the band's smash hits "Breaking the Law" also from "British Steel" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming" from 1982's "Screaming for Vengeance" that still roused the most applause even after all these years. // 10