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Friday, February 4, 2011

Ozzy Osbourne Makes Us Wonder: Is He Actually Human?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Ozzy Osbourne at HP Pavilion last night. - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Ozzy Osbourne at HP Pavilion last night.
Ozzy Osbourne
February 2, 2011
HP Pavilion

Better than: Merely mortal metal.

Is Ozzy Osbourne actually human?

Seriously. Is he?

Onstage at HP Pavilion last night, the Force of Ozzy seemed again to flaunt the rules of mortal life: 62 years in, 43 years of professional rock 'n' roll, and he seemed less like an older man than some early-model alien robot -- damaged, deranged, but still clinging to life with a metallic grasp, black-painted fingernails, and bloodshot eyes.

His face looked like a natural disaster -- glued, it seemed, into a mixed expression of glee and terror. Posture like a bent pipe. Cackling. Hobbling. Begging the arena to get crazier. Dumping his greasy black mop into buckets of water between every song, then tossing the water at the audience. Then firing icky wet foam from a gun into the crowd, himself, and -- why not? -- the security dudes at the front of the stage. Hell, Ozzy even hopped up and down like a giddy kangaroo, widening his Krazy Glue facial expression. What kind of 62-year-old human being, especially one as thoroughly life-worn as Ozzy, does that?

All hail the Ozzmaster - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • All hail the Ozzmaster
He behaved last night like a vampire whose life-sustaining liquid was not blood, but the shouts of his thousands of adorers, and the music that inspired them. The improbability of this longevity wasn't lost on Ozzy at all: "I can't believe I'd be doing this shit forty-three fucking years," he crowed at one point. "I don't give a fuck, because you know why? I'm Ozzy."

Obviously -- or, as far as we know anyway -- Ozzy is a human, albeit one who exercises way too much. He's lasted so well through all the bat-head bitings, snotty children, dead guitarists (R.I.P, Randy), drugs, rotating band lineups, 10-pint mornings, years of touring, years of MTV, and years of having a big metal festival named after him, that doctors are studying Ozzy Osbourne to find out how the hell he did it. Because if he can function at all -- and certainly if he can still summon the kind of presence and energy we saw last night -- there must be a lot we humans still don't get about how our bodies work.

Gus G., shredder. - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Gus G., shredder.
Gus G., shredder. - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Gus G., shredder.
But the award for Most Absurd Heavy Metal Concert Occurence of the Night goes to -- well, a tie: guitarist Gus G. had a fan at the front of the stage to blow back the long wisps of black hair while he took a solo, which was practical, but also comical. It made him look like one of those Fabio-types on the covers of romance novels. And because just a big drum solo, even one that ends with a gong and fireworks, doesn't cut it anymore, drummer Tommy Clufetos played atop a riser that elevated 20 feet into the air during his tom-fest. (It was higher, even, than the impressive riser I saw Motorhead use the previous night.)

"The crazier you get, the longer we'll play." - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • "The crazier you get, the longer we'll play."
Yet despite, well, everything, Ozzy's presence anchored the show. Having departed the stage for a while to let his band show off its chops, Ozzy returned with a reprise of his opening taunt: "the crazier you get, the longer we'll play." A hollow promise if there ever was one -- no Ozzy concert is going to end without "Crazy Train" and "Paranoid," and it's not going to go on much after those songs, either. The former was a fun, poorly mixed mess -- or maybe it was the frenzied shouts of the metal boys down on the floor that kept us from hearing the classic guitar riff from "Crazy Train" as well as we'd have liked. (Here's wishing Ozzy'd had a second guitarist the whole night, instead of just for the Sabbath tunes.) 

"The crazier you get, the longer we'll play." - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • "The crazier you get, the longer we'll play."
By "Crazy Train," even the maddened superhuman seemed tired: He let the crowd sing all of the first two choruses, and whipped out his foam gun some more. "Mama I'm Coming Home" made for a breather, allowing the Ozz to ramp it up for a fireworks-punctuated "Paranoid," which riffed along for twice the length of the recorded version. Clearly, no encore was coming after that. Ozzy summoned his bandmates for a bow and another ear-shattering fireworks medley, then hobbled slowly offstage, still looking manic as he waved goodbye. Human after all, perhaps, but only grudgingly so.

  • Richard Haick
Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: "Paranoid" was the first song I learned with my first-ever band. I can still play Tony Iommi's guitar solo by heart.

Tearjerker moment: Speaking of Iommi, Ozzy last night bragged, seemingly quite gratefully, that he'd had the chance to play with the "finest guitar players on the planet." He called out Tony, Black Sabbath's godlike axeman. He called out Randy Rhoads -- the tremendously gifted lead guitarist in Ozzy's first solo band, who died in a tragic plane crash in 1982 -- and who got by far the biggest applause from the audience. Zakk Wylde received only a polite reception. Then Ozzy introduced Gus G., his new hotshot, who played one of those 10-minute guitar solos that dazzle the crowd at metal shows but wouldn't work anywhere else.

Random notebook dump: "Ozzy looks like he's crying all the time."

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