Lonely Is The Word (Zodiac 010)
Stadthalle, Offenbach, Germany – June 2, 1980
Disc 1 (44:31) Supertzar, War Pigs, Neon Knights, N.I.B., Lonely Is The Word, Sweet Leaf, Drum Solo, Sweet Leaf (reprise), Children Of The Sea
Disc 2 (56:42) Black Sabbath, Heaven And Hell, Iron Man, Guitar Solo, Die Young, Paranoid, Children Of The Grave
Black Sabbath began the tour in support of their Heaven and Hell record with warm up dates in smaller German markets before a full UK tour that was then followed by another tour of Germany hitting all the big markets. This gig in Offenbach was the first gig of the latter German tour and finds the band playing the 4000 seat venue with opening acts Shakin’ Street and Inertia. The recording featured here is a good to very good audience source that is well balanced with some minor crowd interference but none too intrusive and there is some distortion in the upper frequencies. It has a nice in your face kind of sound and the atmosphere is captured nicely, a joy to listen to. With 25 plus gigs the band is in fine form and turn in a tight and professional performance to the ecstatic German fans.
After the obligatory “Supertzar” intro the band take the stage with “War Pigs”. Ronnie is in great voice and seems to spew the lyrical tale of power and control with fury. Tony plays a great solo but what makes this release special is the playing of Bill Ward. In much of what I have read about the tour was that Bill was in bad shape and consumed by alcoholism and would eventually leave the band during their American tour. I have also read of tension between Bill and new front man Ronnie James Dio. Bill’s playing tonight is superb and his beat is solid and steady. This heat up as the band goes full force into a driving “Neon Knights” and gets a huge ovation. Ronnie thanks the audience for the welcome and talks of the Sabbath fans and one in particular who has an arm patch that says “Sabbath Forever” before introducing Geezer and the early Sabbath classic “N.I.B.” The crowd roars their approval and clap along with the heavy music that surrounds them. The Dio sung versions of this song are much welcomed by my ears and this is a great rendition.
What makes this show special is the addition of the closing song on the Heaven and Hell LP, “Lonely Is The Word”. Ronnie seems to be in close dialog with the audience and introduces it as a song from the new record. The slow metal and blues fused song is excellent live and features a passionate vocal rendition as well as a great solo from Tony, in fact he has gone on record as saying that the one found on the record is one of his favorites. Steeped deep in the blues, Tony’s guitar sound adds a unique bleakness to the music…superb. Close to the end Ronnie stops the song to say that someone from an area close to his hometown is in the audience and gives him a shout out, amid the “fiasco” as he puts it, it sounds like it catches the band off guard but they soon move on to the songs conclusion. Ronnie is quick to introduce “Sweet Leaf”, he says it is a song that is appropriate, perhaps the smell of herb was floating about and the song is well received. I always thought it was a curious addition to the set list as it is an Ozzy signature tune and Dio’s vocal style is more aggressive than his predecessor. None the less the band plays a great version that is augmented by an excellent 5 and half minute Bill Ward Drum solo. As I said earlier, his drumming is great and his solo shows him to be in excellent shape and is a testament to his style, rock and roll mixed deep with a blues and jazz flavor that a lot of the English drummers of the time shared.
“From the album Heaven and Hell we would like to do “Children Of The Sea” is Ronnie’s introduction to a wonderfully dramatic version of the classic. It is hard to believe that he wrote the lyrics to it in a very short time as they fire the music to perfection. The echo on his vocals are particularly effected at the end of the song where Ronnie sings “Look Out !”. The bands signature song “Black Sabbath” is next, it has a brief Iommi solo reminiscent of “Orchid” that leads into the ever so heavy opening riff, someone close to the tapers yells in obvious appreciation. The crowd cheers as Ronnie sings the introductory vocals, so ominously perfect. The German crowds were very nice to Sabbath in the post Ozzy years and they find the Dio led line up much to their liking (and I agree). They really get into the song as he sings “Oh no…please God help me…” and Iommi just kills it with the fast riffing section, the crowd responds by clapping in time to great effect. As that was not epic enough the title track from the new record is. Ronnie starts by saying the response from the German fans has been fantastic. The audience chants along to the opening part before Ronnie’s vocals and they sound very animated throughout the song. I love the songs improvisational feel, while known as primarily a metal band it is the band’s rich live history through the underground tapes (at the semi official Live at Last) that we have gotten to know the wonderful musical interplay between the musicians. Iommi, Butler, and Ward sound as if they could play for endless hours, going from one theme to the next and throw in the lyrical improv that Ronnie brings and you get something special. You can faintly hear the Geoff Nichols keyboards just before the songs coda, they are most certainly drowned out as the full band just kicks in, locked in a perfect synchronicity, a very strong rendition.
The effects Ronnie uses on his voice as he sings “I am Iron Man” get a cheer from the crowd as the music seems to bowl you over. About 2:55 into the song it sounds as if Iommi may be either going out of tune or there is some kind of a phasing issue, maybe the taper was trying to better position his device. What ever it is, it is short lived and almost adds the insanity of the whole performance / recording. The song ends with the opening sounds from Nichols’ keyboards, the swirling intro that can be one song and for the listener the culmination of all that has been played to this point. The keyboards stop, however, and Iommi goes into a solo, one that is reminiscent of his early to mid 70’s work, rich but with a real jazz feel to it. He then breaks into what sounds very reminiscent of “Supernaut” from Vol. 4 with the rest of the band joining in and again the improvisation continues. You also hear something that sounds like the “Sometimes I’m Happy” jam. The crowd lights up when they break into “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” (sans vocals, wouldn’t that have been something to hear Ronnie sing that?) and “Orchid” sounds hauntingly beautiful in its elegance. A superb 11 minute musical journey and as the notes fade from Iommi’s fret board the swirling keyboards start for an incredible “Die Young”, so powerful sounding it makes your hair blow back. The song is musical perfection and so aggressive as the locked in musicians just rip and Ronnie shouts “Die Young” over them.
The taper adjusts the recording device for the worse. Ronnie’s set closing comments sound muffled but clear as the crowd chants for more and the band responds with an energetic “Paranoid”, the sound quality is down a notch but retains its clarity. The crowd demand more and clap, cheer and stomp for five minutes until the band return with the obligatory “Children of the Grave”. The introductory riff sounds like an army on the march, a rock and roll army, Ronnie certainly had no problem putting his stamp on the Ozzy classic. A superb end to a simply brilliant concert, Sabbath was a totally rejuvenated band in 1980 and concerts like this should be enjoyed and appreciated.
The packaging is what we expect from Zodiac, nice graphics with a Gothic color tone and feel for the release. There are some nice live and posed shots of the Mark III (if you count the short lived Dave Walker version as Mark II) Sabbath. The discs have the picture from the back of the Heaven and Hell LP sleeve, all housed in a slim lined jewel case. This is a great release from Zodiac, there are few if any titles from this early period of the tour and is a welcome addition to my collection.