Friday, August 28, 2009

Black Sabbath at the Wallingford, CT Chevrolet Theater, 08/27/2009

Heaven & HellI refuse to call them Heaven & Hell; get over it.

I think the last time I saw a band at this theater was the mid 80s, when it was called the Oakdale, across the street, in the round, and John Sebastian and Weird Al were playing (yes, Al puts on a good show). Only a mere five years ago the venue was mostly used for various trade shows, so if I wanted to pick up some gray market computer games or a cheap network card, it was the place to be.

And now one can see bona fide decent music there. I've seen Ozzy solo, Dio solo, and even Sabbath with Ozzy a few times, but Sabbath with Dio has always escaped me, so it was time to fill a hole in my concert going experience.

I knew I wouldn't be disappointed before the show started, what with the two huge gargoyles with glowing red eyes flanking the stage, and crystal balls grasped by bony skeleton fingers all over the place. That decor, plus the lack of huge buckets of water, clearly meant Ozzy wasn't going to make a guest appearance.

Dio was his usual polite self, exchanging hand shakes with the audience, pumping the devil horns triumphantly forth, and making all the right gestures when singing about wheels, circles, and anything vaguely round.

Lately I've been impressed with the sound quality of the last few concerts I've attended. Everything was in perfect balance here, with all instruments, plus Dio's voice, never fighting for ultimate control. The standards from Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules sounded as good as one expects, and the tunes from Dehumanizer got some extra heft since the reverb that drenches that album was peeled away. Iommi's main riff of "I" sounded particularly mighty, and hearing "Time Machine" was a pleasant surprise. "Heaven and Hell" went on (and on and on) for about three hours, and while I can't say I was ever bored listening to it (Iommi and Geezer really show no sign of aging when it comes to deftly coloring outside the standard rock music lines), I also can't say I would've been disappointed if they had shortened it a tad to make room for "Voodoo" and "Sign of the Southern Cross".

Vinny Appice was the usual rock while drumming, and while people enjoyed his solo, it's always difficult for me to watch this sort of thing. It's hard to live up to a guy I've seen perform a dozen times who's got a whole DVD dedicated to constructing drum solos.

The only improvement I'd suggest to the band is to beef up their video screen entertainment. It was a nice LCD, but they couldn't have paid more than five dollars to some grubby 13 year old to come up with the CGI that was displayed on it. Most of the time it was by the numbers animation of lightning, rain, clouds, canyons, and crosses. When it wasn't, we got treated to ten panel looped animations of the album cover mascots. Life for me just isn't the same after seeing the Live Evil knight swing his sword aimlessly left and right for five minutes straight.

The only thing worse than these animations was the opening band, Coheed and Cambria. I think I was supposed to like them, going by the likes of their Rush-y progressive style, plus well executed guitar solos (very creamy tone coming from their Flying Vs), but it was far too emo for my taste. Their cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" is quite good, but man is it emo-fied.

The final song, however, is what did me in permanently. They took every cheesy rock staple they could think of: the theremin, the talk box, and using a drum stick as a guitar pick, then lambasted the audience with this nonsense. If they were good at using any of these trite devices, that would help, but I'd much rather hear Jimmy Page on the theremin, David Gilmour on the talk box, and Thurston Moore wack on his ax with the sticks (he knows how to wedge them in the guitar neck...a key to stage coolness). At the end they topped it off by attempting to coax feedback from their amps in some kind of weird tribute to Kurt Cobain, but were largely unsuccessful, and left the stage noiseless.

Set List:

The Mob Rules
Children of the Sea
Bible Black
Time Machine
Falling Off the Edge of the World
Follow the Tears
Die Young
Heaven and Hell

Country Girl (edit)
Neon Knights


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