Black Sabbath – Veterans Memorial (no label)

Veterans Memorial (no label)

Veterans Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, Connecticut, September 19, 1980

Disc 1: Supertzar; War Pigs; Neon Knights; N.I.B.; Children of the Sea; Sweet Leaf, including Drum Solo; Black Sabbath

Disc 2: Heaven and Hell; Iron Man; Guitar Solo; Die Young; Paranoid; Children of the Grave

Black Sabbath’s September 19, 1980 concert was the group’s ninth show with new drummer Vinny Appice, who was 23 at the time.  According to a recent interview with him, he really hadn’t been a very big Sabbath fan when he joined them.  Without knowing these facts, when listening to this concert one could reasonably conclude that these guys had been playing together for years because their chemistry by then was that amazingly good.

Veterans Memorial is at least a very good, and largely excellent stereo audience recording with only a few, scattered fluctuations to what sound like either mono channeling or possibly the stitching in of an alternate source to patch gaps in the master source used for this No Label title.  The audio’s quality was juxtaposed to the audio on the recent commercial reissue of Seventh Star, which contains a Sabbath concert with Ray Gillen on vocals from June 2, 1986.  For this reviewer, Veterans Memorialis easily more detailed and with a better “live” sound as compared to the 1986 concert recording, making it preferred listening.  It captured Dio’s soaring, penetrating vocals as clearly as Iommi’s signature, plundering riffs that drove Sabbath’s engine with Butler and Appice to one exciting height after another.

Before discussing the concert, it is worth mentioning that No Label has consistently demonstrated itself to this reviewer to be a producer of high quality bootlegs with simple yet unquestionably tasteful packaging.  The beautifully ornate silver discs are housed in a standard jewel case containing glossy, attractive color inserts in a Heaven and Helltheme with live pictures of Dio, Iommi and Butler.  If there is a negative for this release, it might be that its artwork didn’t also include pictures of Appice and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, who each played vital roles in making this concert experience all that it was.  Overall, however, this is a first-rate job that firmly plants Veterans Memorial in No Label’s continuing history of producing quality releases.

This concert’s set list was largely what they performed in the Fall of 1980, although in this show they extended the encore with a pounding version of “Children of the Grave” that was not played in the other shows.  After the prelude of “Supertzar”, Appice started the performance with the snare / bass drum introduction to a vicious and powerful version of “War Pigs.” 

Excited audience reaction is intermittently audible during the song, which Dio sang with amazing originality and conviction given the fact that Ozzy had performed it for about 10 straight years beforehand and Dio had only been performing it for about 1 year.  Appice’s onslaught of his kit with tasteful fills seemed to invite Iommi and Butler to engage in similar aggressive playing, leading to wild audience cheering during breaks in the song.

After an explosion when the song ended, which was probably stage pyrotechnics based on the audience’s approval, they tore into a blistering version of “Neon Knights” that had great, rumbling bottom end without any corresponding distortion or loss of frequency in the other ranges.  Dio was in a particularly (and appropriately) aggressive mood during this song – and show – grunting, growling, and sailing around his remarkable vocal range.  Thankfully, his mood was not his alone as everyone on stage was on fire and after only two songs things were cranked-up to a fevered pitch.

“NIB”, which was also played with aggression and precision, provides further evidence of the audience’s enthusiastic reaction as concertgoers remote to the recording can be heard cheering wildly, but without any interference with the recorded music.  Documents of a concert such as this, which provide a vivid and balanced glimpse back to what both the band and audience experienced that night, are invaluable to music collectors.  Dio comments to this effect after “NIB”, stating that New Haven “grows the audiences wild and restless.”

“Children of the Sea” is next, and it roars like all other songs played during the show.  Of special prominence in this recording is Geoff Nicholls’ haunting synthesizer and gothic chimes that accentuated the measures preceding Iommi’s quick lead, which was followed by the next powerful part of the song when Dio sang about the misty morning, being on the edge of time, and reaching for the stars. 

A very heavy, raucous “Sweet Leaf” followed, finding Dio improvising lyrics about having it every day to make “your world come alive” before going into the song’s set lyrics.  Appice did another one of his monstrous solos during the song, which was received with great applause from the audience before he brought the band back into the tune.

“Black Sabbath” was next, which was perfectly accented by Nicholls’ resounding church bell accents, with the head-banging portion about 6 minutes in evoking images of total bedlam in the arena when this concert was happening.  There was also fantastic echo on Dio’s voice, which was captured perfectly by this recording.

“Heaven and Hell” was also tremendous, with the respective soloing of Dio and Iommi shining especially brightly.  As it turned out, this song would bookend the second half of the show as it re-entered at the end of “Paranoid” toward the end of the concert.  “Iron Man” followed, but, uncharacteristically, Dio was completely lost with the song’s lyrics.  If a listener didn’t know the words, though, no difference would be detected because of Dio’s mastery and presence.  One-off stuff like this, showing the errors of a star, would NEVER find its way onto a commercial release, which serves to underscore the unique value bootlegs provide to fans of a band’s catalog of music.

After “Iron Man” the synthesizer start to “Die Young” began, but then evaporated as Iommi did his solo spot, which was simply amazing.  Mixing in jazzy playing with diametrically sounding riffs of terror, Iommi also did an instrumental version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” with Butler and Appice, as well as “Orchid” from Master of Reality.  The solo ended as the synthesized beginning to “Die Young” resumed, which was expertly and seamlessly pulled-off.  As with all other songs during the show, “Die Young” was aggressive, and angry, as it was played faster as Dio shouted “all right!” before launching into the song’s lyrics. 

They maintained this pace through the 2 remaining songs of the show, “Paranoid” – which was followed by 4 more loud explosions from the stage – and “Children of the Grave” – which was received loudly by the audience and played in a way to once again suggest that there were thousands and thousands of heads banging as the band plowed through another Sabbath classic.

It almost goes without saying that fans of Black Sabbath fronted by Dio should definitely seek out this superb title for their collection.

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