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OZZFEST 2004 - Indianapolis USA
August 24

by: DAN 'SOFT BOY' SKIBA

Email: SoftBoy (at) MetalExpressRadio.com

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August 24 Metal Express had the pleasure of attending the August 24th leg of the Ozzfest Tour in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. As is typical, Ozzfest included a main and second stage setup, and included what was probably the most solid line up from top to bottom to date. Hardcore concert fans dedicated to catching every minute of this “all day event” were fed their breakfast via the second stage at Ozzfest with amazing efficiency, starting with the band Darkest Hour shortly after 9:00 a.m. Following this initial daybreak punch, up came Throwdown, followed by Magna Fi, Devildriver, God Forbid, Unearth, and Every Time I Die in 25-minute intervals. Lacuna Coil, OTEP, Bleeding Through, Atreyu, Lamb of God, and Hatebreed handled the afternoon half hours, leading the way for the band Slipknot …

SLIPKNOT
What actually is the purpose of a concert? It’s to entertain the audience, of course, and to drive home a musical concept via both a sound and visual experience. Often bands fail to succeed in one (or both) of these basic concepts. Be assured, Slipknot succeeded on both accounts, and succeeded in a HUGE way. With faces/heads covered by freakish masks and/or tortuous apparatuses, Slipknot bludgeoned the audience with a high impact, high energy blitzkrieg musical/visual assault, filled with enough passionate and inspirational head-banging to pound a telephone pole into solid concrete. The band had the audience under their total control … bodies were being passed overhead from one end of the crowd mass to the other, fists pumped incessantly to the beat, and finger horns were thrust towards the band with fanatical vigor. Luckily the band only played for about 35 minutes – an hour set would’ve spent the energy of the audience before the main stage acts even had a chance to strut their stuff! Overall, a great end to the second stage, creating crowd euphoria leading into Black Label Society’s set …

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY
Zakk Wylde In true Ozzfest swiftness, Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society (BLS) entered the main stage to support their Hangover Music Vol. VI release as fans continued to funnel into their seats from the second stage area. Although sounding great musically, the soundboard crewmembers evidently were looking for their places too, because for the early-on songs, Wylde’s vocals were either silent or inaudible. For what lacked in vocals, however, BLS more than made up for in powerful, pumping guitar work and thunderous percussion output. If anything, BLS took the prize for the loudest band of the event … the set was so power driven, you could feel the music in your bones. Any neck or shoulder kinks were certainly pounded out by the thunderous bass drumbeats and many an eardrum were popped during Zakk’s masterfully crafted solos. After BLS’ 30-minute set, and upon sharing a few beers with some thankful fans (here, catch!), an appreciative crowd bid farewell to a band/man who definitely belonged here at this year’s Ozzfest.

SUPERJOINT RITUAL
Phil Anselmo Next up was Phil Anselmo’s Superjoint Ritual (SJR). Anselmo immediately set the tone for civil disobedience by prancing the stage and delivering his vocal assault with unparalleled enthusiasm and devotion, in support of SJR’s A Lethal Dose of American Hatred release. The fans in the Pit Area were particularly responsive to Anselmo’s actions, as the general theme delivered was for everyone to tell everyone who pisses them off to go eff themselves! All in all, Anselmo’s personality and communication with the crowd was more than effective … he essentially held the crowd in the palm of his hand and created a new level of enthusiasm of what was to come later in the evening during his audience participation “Ozzy … Ozzy … Ozzy” chant. Complementing Anselmo’s stage presence, Jimmy Bower and Kevin Bond performed notably well on guitar too, adding further attitude with a hard-core Punk Metal flair to the show with their one-two guitar-punch assault. The highlight, though, at least for this reporter, was being pulled up onto stage by Anselmo to get a couple “exclusive” Anselmo/crowd photos … it’s pretty clear from look in the crowd’s eyes in this photo, and the fact that nearly everyone had their fists (or bird-fingers) in the air, that SJR had this festive crowd in a near frenzy! After 30 minutes, and Anselmo’s f-bombs now surpassing the century mark, SJR thanked the lathered-up audience and made way for Norway’s Dimmu Borgir …

DIMMU BORGIR
Shalgrath Amid a sudden metamorphosis from the relatively “tame” BLS and SJR stage settings, came the members of Dimmu Borgir (DB) floating to their positions and instruments like demons in the night to deliver a 30-minute set of Black Metal’s best to the unsuspecting Indianapolis audience. Compared to many other countries, Black Metal is simply not strongly promoted in the United States (especially in the Central part of the country) and is largely not well-understood by the average Metalhead native to this part of the world. As a result of this, and with DB’s dark stage attire and backdrop, the audience quickly took on a different personality – almost like they were collectively losing their virginity – the audience seemed to know not exactly what was happening, but began to realize after a couple songs that whatever was happening was something they wanted to experience and be a part of again. DB’s vocalist Shagrath, and guitarists Galder and Silenoz, used their stage presence and body language to completely grab and hold the audience’s attention. Kudos should also go out to the DB sound crew … the band’s complicated sound was indeed awesome, and DB was certainly successful in selling themselves, their show concept, and the Black Metal genre of music to this unsuspecting, yet now more savvy, Metal audience. The promoters of Ozzfest get a big “thumbs up” for having the moxie to include a band like DB on the main stage bill of this year’s tour …

SLAYER
After DB, the audience was somewhat left in a state of flux. The veteran band Slayer essentially brought the crowd back to familiarity with their 50-minute power-packed Thrash Metal set. By this time, the sound engineers absent in body or spirit during the BLS set must have fully arrived (or had exquisite equipment), because the band was able to produce some incredible bass-end emphasis throughout their set, and Tom Araya’s vocals were surprisingly decipherable. The audience soaked in Slayer’s set with open arms, as Dave Lombardo played the drum kit flawlessly, and Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman spit out the guitar riffs with expected Thrash precision mayhem and fervor. Slayer’s sonic assault was just what the audience was looking for to get them back into their comfort zone, and evidently made the weather gods take notice too … the sticky, sweltering Indianapolis day decided to brew up a pretty nasty storm “out of nowhere” at the end of Slayer’s set, which sent the “lawn seat” fans scrambling for cover (more on that later). All in all, Slayer showed the audience why they’ve survived the test of time so well for so many years …

JUDAS PRIEST
Rob Halford Wet, but full of anticipation, the crowd estimated at 15,000 watched pensively as the stage crew constructed the Judas Priest (JP) stage. The fans went berserk as the first guitar notes of “The Hellion/Electric Eye” were cranked out by Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, and even moreso when Rob Halford arose from center stage in front of the band’s backdrop canopy, crafted in similar fashion to the cover of the band’s recently released Electric Eye DVD. It became quickly evident that JP was here to deliver their set to “perfection,” with class, and as a cohesive unit. Halford bellowed his vocals in a workmanlike fashion, never even coming close to missing a note, and Tipton and Downing were remarkably in sync, handing over leads back and forth with seamless precision. The steady Ian Hill on bass guitar showed himself able to continue setting the foundation for JP’s music, and Scott Travis … well what can you say about him other than the fact that he’s one of the best Metal drummers in the business from both a speed and rhythm perspective.

This was, however, a “more mature” JP than what was formerly known by fans during the Painkiller tour many moons ago. Although able to continue delivering a performance with enough wattage to light up the state of Indiana for a fortnight, the band seemed very relaxed and “at peace,” if you will, during their 75-minute set. JP indeed seemed like a family again, happy to be in each other’s company on stage and benefiting from a profound trust and loyalty towards one another. Choreographed and scripted frolics, such as when Halford picked Downing’s guitar, Downing picked Tipton’s guitar, and Tipton picked Hill’s bass in a side-by-side line up during the intro to “Breaking The Law” especially drove home the band’s internal allegiance.

Overall and to the satisfaction of the audience, this show was possibly the “best” JP has sounded during their storied career. As in the past decades, they were loud as hell, but every instrument was crisp – none droned out – and Halford came through clear as a bell.

Although spectacular from start to finish, some of the highlights of the show included Downing’s solo during “Victim of Changes” – his playing was completely inspired and showed the true innovativeness of his composition – it came through as fresh as it was when first crafted some 30 years ago. Another highlight was Halford’s emotional effervescence during “Beyond the Realms of Death,” when his operatic voice completely sold the line “…Keep the world with all its sin / It’s not fit for living in!…” Collectively, the crowd stood slack-jawed for a measure of time in total astonishment of the man’s continued vocal capacities, which appeared on this night to have not suffered one iota over the years.

In the end, although the wait was painfully longer than any of the fans wanted to endure, the reunited JP performance was indeed satisfying, and the band was truly successful in leaving the crowd with high expectations of what will eventually come with their new album in December 2004!

Set List:
The Hellion/Electric Eye
Metal Gods
Heading Out To The Highway
Touch Of Evil
The Sentinel
Victim Of Changes
Breaking The Law
Beyond The Realms Of Death
The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)
Painkiller
Hell Bent For Leather
Living After Midnight
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’

BLACK SABBATH
Ozzy and Iommi This year’s Ozzfest featured Black Sabbath (Sabbath) with its original members, which is completely fitting in light of the reunited JP. Fans, whether they realized it or not, were witness to THE 2 bands indeed responsible for causing the term “Heavy Metal” to be coined in the music industry in 1980. The challenge on this night, however, was for Sabbath to deliver a set powerful enough to hold its own against JP’s stellar performance …

At this point in the evening, the audience was beginning to show fatigue. The hot sun had been beating on the crowd for most of the day, only to break via an apocalyptic thunderstorm deluge before the JP set. Many fans were wet, physically drained from spending so much energy cheering for the other acts during the day, and were feeling the chill of the storm’s accompanying cold front. Sabbath most definitely had their work cut out for them … that’s for sure!

The band’s set opened with about a 5-minute recorded medley of riffs and chord patterns from some of Sabbath’s most recognizable Ozzy-era songs. Images of prior album covers and pictures taken predominantly during that decade were flashed on the backdrop screen during this intro. Each riff/chord change elicited more and more excitement within the audience, and indeed served as the wake-up call needed. The most amazing thing about this recorded intro was that it sounded just like the band playing when the band actually hit the stage with “War Pigs!”

Bands seldom sound “just like their albums” live – it’s almost impossible to replicate studio tricks in a live setting. I suppose, though, we should expect no less from the forefathers of Heavy Metal, because on this night, Sabbath delivered a perfect old-school Sabbath sound – specifically, Butler-bass-driven rock ‘n’ roll! Butler and Iommi played “seriously” throughout the night like true craftsmen of their trade, ensuring every note, riff, solo, and chord pattern was plucked timely, clearly, and with purpose. Bill Ward on the drums played as inspired and enthusiastically as anyone during the entire day’s event, giving the impression that he was completely in his element and was enjoying every moment on stage. He weaved through each song, pounding his kit and slashing his cymbals in bliss – all the time in his “own little world,” much like Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter artistically would have diced and devoured his next victim in The Silence Of The Lambs.

Of course, then, there was the Madman himself, Mr. Ozzy Osbourne! Quite frankly, Ozzy performed and looked better than he has in at least the last 5 tours. Ozzy was all smiles and was right on queue during each and every song during this night. Always in tune with his audience, Ozzy excused himself for a minute after “War Pigs” and started running stage left – he picked up a blue bucket and ran back to the microphone, then held the bucket up in the air and over his head. With a shit-eatin’ grin on his face, Ozzy proceeded to dump that bucket, filled with water, over his head, completely soaking himself from head to foot! After wiping the water out of his eyes, he yelled, “Now we’re all fucking wet! Let’s all get fucking crazy!” Indeed it was the shot in the arm the beleaguered audience needed to get right back into the groove of the evening!

At the end of Sabbath’s set, Ozzy thanked the grateful audience amid enough confetti being shot into the crowd from the stage to cover New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve. A spectacular ending to a more-than-memorable event!

Set List:
War Pigs
N.I.B.
Fairies Wear Boots
Into The Void
Black Sabbath
Iron Man
Children Of The Grave
Paranoid

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Overall, this may have been the most true-to-form Metal Ozzfest in the tour’s history. With a very strong line up both on the main stage and the second stage, this year’s tour definitely demonstrated that Metal clearly remains a force to be reckoned with going forward in the USA. The fans ranged from 50-something year old veterans to pre-adolescent Metalheadz-in-the-making, and everything in-between. Hopefully State-dwellers were fortunate enough to catch this year’s event -- if not, we can all only hope the Osbournes pull off as impressive of a gig next year too, although it will be extremely difficult to top this year’s line up.

Special thanks go out too to the Marketing and Promotional staff at Clear Channel and Verizon Wireless Music Theater for making Metal Express feel so welcome and accommodating our needs, the security associates for a subtle favor every now and again, and to April “Ozzy” Taylor, an enjoyable concert attendee who indeed gets the award for being the “Biggest Ozzy Fan In The USA!"

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