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Ozzfest Opening Night in Hartford, CT

By Tokemaster General, Contributor
Friday, July 16, 2004 @ 0:33 AM


Ozzfest Opening Night at the c

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REVIEW BY: Bob Lang

Opening night is always the roughest for a tour -- especially a large package like the long running and top-grossing show this summer: Ozzfest. Second stage acts like Hatebreed and Slipknot did not disappoint, by all accounts, although I admittedly did not catch one due to traffic and a mandatory pre-party at the hotel pool (letís just say they're not looking for us to return to the Clarion Suites in Manchester anytime soon).

The first mainstage act I caught was Superjoint Ritual, one of Phil Anselmo's numerous side projects that are heavy as hell, but not even close to the power of Pantera or Down. Personally, I was completely disappointed and saddened by Phil's demeanor, rolled back eyeballs, between song ramblings and rail thin arms (remember the jacked up ex-boxer look of Cowboys from Hell?) His persistent heroin habit has now become a public spectacle, which culminated in him powerpuking during the final song of the set. Humorous to some, pathetic to the true believers.

Next up was Dimmu Borgir, who represent what's left of the European death metal movement. From the makeup to the keyboards, there was nothing here that deserved mainstage slotting. One can only surmise that Sharon Osbourne owes a favor or is angling in to a side management deal. Questionable at the least, when there are so many others waiting in the wings for this opportunity and exposure.

Next up was the indomitable Slayer, who for me (who is not a diehard fan of live thrash metal) were the best live act in terms of overall power and ability to create moshpit mayhem. Highlights included "Deadskin Mask," "Reign in Blood" and "South of Heaven." Too short of a slot that was hampered by the presence of daylight. Otherwise an impeccable display of instrumental prowess by all four individuals.

The much anticipated Judas Priest reunion was met with rabid appreciation by the sweltering crowd, some of whom at been at it for almost eight hours at that point in sunny conditions with temps in the high eighties. Humidity in the pit was sweltering to say the least, either from the energy level or the alcohol consumption (probably a combo of both factors). This point considered, it was nothing short of amazing to not only witness Rob Halford stalk the stage like a caged animal, only stopping to scream his trademark howls at the appropriate moments. Technically, his former replacement "Ripper" Owens has superior pipes, being in the prime of his career, but Halford quickly got over a rusty sound mix for the first three tunes (a brilliant triple shot of "Hellion/Electric Eye," "Metal Gods" and "Heading Out to the Highway") and was dominant for the remainder of the set.

KK Downing and Glenn Tipton were flawless on guitar, as usual, with the exception of some out of tune strings probably caused by the high humidity (a condition that also plagued Tony Iommi during "Black Sabath" later in the evening). More highlights included "Victim of Changes" and "Green Manalishi" that recalled their initial breakthrough on Unleashed in the East and flawless renditions of "The Sentinel" and "Painkiller" from later albums in their career.

After exiting the third row vantage point in the pit area, I went outside to regroup for Sabbath and was pleased to discover that the Meadows venue has a live mix on the outdoor PA for people outside the seating area. As the encores of "Another Thing Coming" and "Living After Midnight" played, it was obvious that these original purveyors of NWOBHM were as tight as ever. Not bad considering that I just heard that they had arrived from London only hours before and hadn't even made soundcheck.

The finale was of course Black Sabbath, who to me are starting to resemble KISS and The Who with the "Last Tour" promises. Did they seem old and a little tired? Yes, but so did Priest initially (you wouldnít want to see my high school grad pic). Is Ozzy recovered from his near fatal ATV accident and continual dependence on narcotic and or booze? For the most part. He doesnít look too coordinated or energetic but he still belts it out. The best part is seeing the new generation who knows him from the sad MTV series and tired old primitive recordings get blown away by the bands mind-numbing volume and sheer power. Considering Bill Ward's many trials and tribulations, itís nothing short of amazing that he is able to hit that kit with commanding authority. Geezer Butler is still the man on bass and Iommi, while not perfect at times, is still the ultimate master of the power chord and riff.

Highlights: opener "War Pigs" with the terrific widescreen video footage of Vietnam, WWII and the Gulf Wars that culminated in comparing Bush to Hitler with the words "SAME SHIT" blinking constantly to drive the point home. "Sweet Leaf" also featured hilarious sixties footage of "Squares" being turned on to hooch for the first time, while "Fairies Wear Boots" had classic shots of Frisco flower Power transvestites frolicking during the summer of Love (unsettling to the testosterone-laden crowd filled with bikers at this show).



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