Disc 1 (52:19) Mecca Arena, Milwaukee, WI, USA – October 9, 1980: Supertzar, War Pigs, Neon Knights, N.I.B. Intro / Ronnie Speaks, Tour manager speaks / Show’s End, Riot # 1, Riot # 2. Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY, USA – October 16, 1980: Supertzar, War Pigs, Neon Knights, N.I.B., Children Of The Sea
Disc 2 (58:32) Black Sabbath, Heaven And Hell, Iron Man, Guitar Solo, Die Young, Paranoid / Heaven and Hell reprise, Children Of The Grave
Finally an interesting Black Sabbath release from Zodiac, two audience recordings taped a week apart while the band were in the midst of the tour in support of Heaven And Hell. The tour in question was dubbed “Black n’ Blue”, a co headlining trek with Blue Oyster Cult hence the acronym. Both bands were being managed by Sandy Pearlman and the tour was strained from the start with tensions between their crews being constantly on the edge. A bit of trivia; both bands then recent albums, the aforementioned Heaven and Hell and BOC’s Cultösaurus Erectus were both produced by Martin Birch, as were each of their follow up records, The Mob Rules and Fire of Unknown Origin. The first recording is the 25 minute performance from Milwaukee famous for the riot that followed an aborted performance. The second recording is from Rochester, New York and while having great sound, seems to get largely overlooked for more popular recordings like Hartford and Tokyo. This set was originally circulated as Definitive Riot Act complete with professional artwork, and seemed to circulate on various download platforms.
The famous riot show, just prior to N.I.B., someone throws a brass cross onstage that strikes Geezer in the head causing a severe cut, the tour manger becomes enraged and stops the concert. The band does not return and, well The Mob Rules! The recording is very good and was taped by a fellow named RB who was in the nineteenth row left of center using a Technics RS-686DS cassette deck with a Teac ME-80 (CM-300) microphone onto a Maxell UD XLII C-90, Dolby on. In the original text file accompanying the download of his recording, RB remembers the evening well:
“Black Sabbath *Two Songs*….THEN….The Destructive Riot! October 9th 1980
Milwaukee Arena Stardate Presents. This was the Black and Blue tour.
“Here is the best documentary ever to come out of a concert/riot show.
Geezer Butler gets hit with something that cuts hit eye and the band
walks off after two songs and the crowd is told to go home. Then 10,000
people groan…hiss…and boooooooo! Part of the problem was nobody really
new what had happened. One chair was knocked over in discuss. Then two chairs
was knocked over. Then four, sixteen, what is sixteen to the second power?
Hand rails were ripped out from the balcony. The back support for the fixed
chairs in the balcony were busted in half. All the while I am recording all
this mayhem. I even interviewed the nuts while they were braking stuff. The
security team all surrounded the mixing console while this was taking place.
I am now in the balcony watching and recording. All the fold up chairs on
the main floor was made of wood. By now, there was at least 100 of these
chairs all in a HUGE pile in the middle of the main floor. I then see one guy
with a BIC lighter trying to light this huge wooden chair pile. Classic.
He never could get it going. He needed lighter fluid. Police sirens and
all the sounds of a riot right here. Every piece of window and door glass
was broken. Over $10,000.00 in damage. My buddy was told to leave by
police but then went back in and promptly was arrested. He said that police
station was over flowing with arrestees and reporters. Black Sabbath has not
played in Milwaukee since. The Milwaukee Bucks I believe had a game the next day.”
The recording is very good, the sound is slightly distant yet well balanced and clear enough so all instruments can be heard, it is somewhat boomy due to the wonderful acoustics of the Mecca, the lower frequencies give it a bit of a punch. Being in the 19th row, the recording picks up a bit of crowd noise that adds to the atmosphere. Vinnie Appice is firmly entrenched within the band by this point, his drumming punctuates the beginning song War Pigs and the audience go nuts and one gets the feeling this will be a hot night. The audience can be heard singing the famous “Generals gathered in their masses” and the energy is conveyed to the band who play a powerful version of the song. The song leads directly into Neon Knights, a song that easily could have been the opener. Tony is playing exceptional, this is conveyed through his mastery of the fast riff and his blistering solos in the middle and end of the song. Incredible start to a concert, Ronnie addresses the crowd and then introduces the next song N.I.B.
Ronnie James Dio had this to say “In Between the songs the lights dimmed and at that precise moment Geezer had been hit on the head by something from the stage. Of course I didn’t know this, so after waiting a bit I walked over to his side of the stage and he was there, concussed with his hand up to his forehead – blood everywhere”.
Then Sabbath’s production and tour manager come and goes off on the crowd, the concert is canceled and chaos ensues, the next six minutes of tape are from the ensuing riot, both inside the arena and outside.
The remainder of the first CD and entirety of the second is the Rochester show, the recording is an excellent audience source that sounds like it was taped very close to the stage and is very in your face hence many people attributing it to a soundboard. There is some top end distortion and a bit of tape hiss yet thankfully this does not effect the sound and all instruments and vocals are very well balanced and clear in the mix, so clear is the sound between songs you can hear the PA picking up parts of a local radio station. No fear, this sounds great loud! There have been a couple previous releases of this material, Heavenly Hell (No Label 2004), and most recently the CD-R title War Memorial 1980 (No Label 2012).
Recorded a week after the Mecca Arena riot and the day prior to the Nassau Coliseum concert immortalized in the Black & Blue concert film, the new incarnation of Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio on vocals and Vinnie Appice on drums have well bonded with stalwarts Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi and the band play with renewed vigor. The intro is low in the mix but once the band kicks into War Pigs the sound jumps out at you, the crowd noise between numbers is virtually non existent making for a bit of a dry atmosphere. Heaven and Hell is a monster clocking in at 15 minutes with some of that time eaten up by Ronnie’s clap along routine, the Spinning Carousel section is blistering.
The guitar solo prior to Die Young is very enjoyable as well, Ronnie takes a break and lets the others jam, they do a variation of the Hole In The Sky riff that leads to Tony soloing leading into the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath riff jam, more solo guitar and culminates with the haunting Orchid. Die Young is perhaps my favorite Dio era Sabbath song, the studio version is great but when you hear a live version like this it just blow me away again and again. There is a cut in the tape missing the very beginning of Paranoid, the song starts with “with my mind , people think I’m insane”, this is the only major known cut, however Sweet Leaf was part of the set list and was usually placed between Children Of The Sea and Black Sabbath. There seems to be some conjecture if it is missing or not played at this concert. A mega heavy Children Of The Grave finishes the concert, it almost sounds like someone cries “Freebird” at the 5:13 mark, could be saying “reverb” tho…the recording fades as the strains of Laguna Sunrise plays over the PA, a superb concert, Sabbath in 1980 were without peers.
The packaging is superb, the front cover uses the same picture as the CD-R of Definitive Riot Act, the aftermath inside the venue with Ronnie superimposed over top. The inside tray has newspaper clipping about the riot and has a cool posed shot of the band with ticket stubs for each concert. And to tie it all together, the CDs have the aftermath pics on them and some come with the numbered sticker. For me, this title really hits the mark and is recommended.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)