Names for your final show, and indeed, your final tour don’t come more appropriate, do they? Late January and early February saw Black Sabbath take their final bows and from my own experience at Glasgow’s Hydro, it was great. The End captures Black Sabbath on the second and final night in Birmingham. It was a piece of history to watch the creators of a genre close the book on their own terms.
Here, the DVD captures the spirit and atmosphere of those shows perfectly. This isn’t a mourning of one of metal’s most important bands bowing out, it’s a celebration. It’s most clear on Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi’s faces with grins never far from their faces. With the camera panning to show the different cast of characters; people who were there at the start and those barely out of school eager, it shows the patchwork quilt that is rock and metal’s fanbase. Some of the camera choices are confusing as they switch blurrily from one to the next and the slow-motion effects, particularly near the start, feel redundant and done for the sake of it. However, there is some excellent use of three shots lined up together, especially on “Dirty Women” as one camera focuses on Ozzy’s childlike grin, marvelling at Iommi’s playing.
As performances go, it’s excellent. No worse or better than the show in Glasgow, it shows how they delivered night after night and didn’t hold anything back for that last performance. All joking aside, Ozzy, despite his reputation, proves he knows how to command a crowd as he shuffles not far from his microphone and demands the crowd to shout at the appropriate moments. “I’m not gonna continue until I hear everybody,” he says, almost petulantly as he introduces the band and they respond in favour to his demands as Iommi is introduced.
Mixed wonderfully, you can hear the crowd in front of Black Sabbath and still retains that unique feel of a band performing live. Meanwhile, the setlist is pretty much what you’d expect of a Black Sabbath show fronted by Ozzy rather than featuring songs from their other eras. The bass-heavy “Wall of Doom” is still as eerie as ever but it’s nothing compared to the sheer sense of dread “Black Sabbath” still forces upon you.
Also featured as a bonus are The Angelic Sessions, with songs like “The Wizard”, “Sweet Leaf” and “Changes”. Filmed and recorded in a studio after The End, it shows the band play and create their final recordings. Comprised of some of their favourite tracks which never made it onto the setlist, even as recording musicians, they enjoyed themselves. If you’ve bought the DVD, it comes alongside it but also as a second disc for you to rip to your device of choice. If you’d rather the audio version of the full set, it’s faithfully reproduced there too and there haven’t been any tracks from the main set “held back” for the DVD version, as is often the case.
Noticeably lacking from the main set are songs from their triumphant 13 album. At the time it was noted that it could stand up with the first four Sabbath records and felt of that era. It would have been a nice inclusion to have had “Loner” or “God is Dead?” at some point or even as a nod “The End of the Beginning” as that’s precisely what this show was. However, it’s Sabbath, the real Sabbath (minus Bill Ward) and some form of that is better than none at all. Tommy Clufetos brings a youthful edge to the band and drives the songs forward effortlessly. As great as having Ward there would have been, someone the same age as Ozzy, Iommi and Butler drumming those songs? There would have had to have been first aiders on standby for him. Clufetos’ drum solo at the end of “Rat Salad” is shortened and isn’t a momentum killer, even if it did let the others take a short rest. Here, it’s been cut to something far leaner and more enjoyable.
However, it’s the end of the night that most people are waiting for with “Iron Man”, “Children of the Grave” and the inevitable “Paranoid” as the band and crowd (some by now openly weeping) hit the home straight and step it up a level, one last time.
The End is out now