Heaven and Hell, with Megadeth and Down, March 11/07, Pacific Coliseum
The crowd was the kind of multi-generational bouillabaisse that you get at these old-guard rock shows. From my vantage point on the general admission floor, there were enough case studies to fill a sociology text. The seven-year-old boy with the massive "Michael Bolton classic" crimped mullet throwing the horns from atop his parent/guardian's shoulders would merit a whole chapter of his own. Most of the teenagers there had dropped their allowance on Megadeth shirts, so Dave Mustaine and co were obviously a big draw.
Down played a good set of swingin' sludge metal. Phil Anselmo was definitely feeling the love, oozing sincerity and appreciation between songs. Drummer Jimmy Bower has to be one of the heaviest hitters I've seen. He nearly levitates on the windup for each downstroke. And Pepper Keenan's one of tastiest guitarists and coolest dudes in rock. I can't see Down ever headlining a show this size, but they made a great warmup act.
Megadeth had a lot of sound problems distracting them during their 45 minutes on stage. They did their best, but the stream of puzzled techs peering behind the amp stacks definitely divided the band's attention. If the bursts of feedback and bass guitar cutting in and out weren't enough, then a set list heavily biased towards newer Megadeth material didn't do much for me either. I'm still in denial over Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson leaving the band, so the early appearance of "Wake Up Dead" got me going, and post-Peace Sells... classics like "Symphony of Destruction" and "Holy Wars/Punishment Due" were good to hear as well. During the rest of the set I amused myself watching a single spotlight follow Mustaine's every move, leaving Glen Drover to solo away in the dark!
Heaven and Hell's first-ever show (I believe these musicians played in a band called Black Sabbath for many years) went down a storm. By now I'm sure everyone's seen setlists from the tour, so I'll summarize by saying they played everything you might have wanted to hear except for "Turn Up the Night." Personally, I was stoked to hear "Lady Evil" and "Sign of the Southern Cross," two songs that sort of define the parameters of Black Sabbath's music during the Dio years. The former is a good old hard rock stomper, while "Sign..." is a majestic epic with a classic Iommi riff. Dio was in good voice, faltering only a couple times on single words up in the high registers. He can still do it; they can all still do it. Along with all the Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules essentials, they played selections from Dehumanizer and three heavy new songs I believe they worked up for the Dio Years box set. No songs from the Ozzy years made it into the set (disappointing a certain tenured Georgia Straight critic), but that was as it should be. Iommi and Butler are shucking the stumbling spectre of their most famous frontman and re-establishing a band that played a big part in metal's ascendance in the early 80s. A triumphant kickoff for a revitalized (let's not deny it) Black Sabbath.
Photos courtesy Mr. Bob Sox.