Our pre-show dinner at the Taj Mahal went a bit long, so Claire’s coworkers, Claire and I arrived at the Moncton Coliseum as the opening act was finishing up.
We were (lightly) frisked. I knew better than to bring my D-SLR, which would have been as welcome as a Kalashnikov. We made our way around the hockey arena to the seats our tickets indicated and quickly realized there was a problem. Our seats faced the side of the stage and our view to the mic stands at the front of the now empty stage was completely blocked by a huge stack of monitors.
Shiznit. “This is going to suck,” I thought.
But a big block of seats ahead of us, unhindered by the monitors, was empty. Claire grabbed my arm. “Let’s go.”
I’m one of those people who understand that concert goers are assigned seats for a reason, and that orderly conduct demands that one respects the ticketed assignment. But I was not going to spend my last ever chance to see one of the greatest living metal gods live get buggered up by lousy sightlines.
“Lead on,” I said to my intrepid wife.
From our new seats, we observed the pre-show setup that was obscured from the rest of the arena by a gigantic white scrim. The guitar tech plugged a long patch cord into Zakk Wylde’s Gibson Les Paul and checked the sound of the wall of old Marshall cabinets with a few riffs. Zakk himself peeked around the back of the stage to check readiness. I hadn’t really followed Ozzy or his lead guitarist for about 20 years, so I didn’t recognize him at first, with his shaggy bearded motorcycle gangster look.
A roar of applause from my right. Some people in our section had spotted Sharon and Jack Osbourne coming around to the mixer board to chat with the sound man. Sharon waved to us. Cool.
Lights dimmed. Scenes were projected on the big white screen. We could see the back of it, so all was reversed. It was a bunch of clips from various movies and TV shows, but Ozzy was somehow in all of them. While the film played, the bandmembers took their positions on the risers.
The movie ended, replaced by animated gothic patterns of crosses and colour. Dramatic music swelled. They had some big subwoofers in those speaker stacks – my sternum vibrated with the low frequencies.
Mr. Ozzy Osbourne himself peeked out from behind. He ran out on stage and stepped up to his microphone. Our little section, the only ones who could see this, went wild.
Crescendo. Pyrotechnics. Heat on our faces.
The screen dropped, and the band rocked to I Don’t Wanna Stop, from the new album.
From the seats that we nervously occupied, we were probably about 30 feet from the stage, at eye level with the band. Zakk Wylde was closest to us, with Ozzy just a few feet further away. Zakk was really cool. He’d frequently turn to our little section of the arena and play to us. While he did this, the monitors obscured the view of the the other 9,950 people in this 10,000 person venue.
I took the best pictures I could with my camera phone. The Blackberry Pearl is no Nikon D3, let me tell you. But even though the security guys frowned, I wasn’t attracting any more attention than everyone else with phones and point ‘n shoots. And no one came to claim the seats we’d appropriated.
Oh yeah, this was fun. I thrashed to the best of my bald-headed ability, sometimes pumping my fist in the air, sometimes the little headbanger devil horns formed with index and pinky. Claire danced. Her boss, to my left, knew the words to every song. Impressive.
Ozzy played the classics: Bark At The Moon, Crazy Train, Suicide Solution. Zakk Wylde played the Randy Rhoads pieces in his own style, adding wild pinch harmonics and wilder high-speed shredding to most pieces.
It was a really good show. Ozzy sprayed the crowed with this weird foam cannon. We were safe with the mixer board and amps in front of us. Women flashed their breasts at the camera projecting crowd images on the the big screen.
Between songs, Zakk would take a drink, set it down, spit some out. He spit a lot, actually.
He’d then beat his chest with his fists and salute us before the next song started. We saluted back.
Ozzy had a fair bit of energy, compared to the dopey guy we used to see on The Osbournes. He swore a lot, which worked well in this context. No bats were harmed in the making of this concert, but Ozzy did the odd ghoulish bit for old times’ sake.
More classics, more dancing, more head banging. Then the power ballads. Out came the lighters.
We weren’t in the direct line of fire of the FOH sound reinforcement, so the sound wasn’t great. By the end of the show, we were feeling hopeful about the lack of pain in our ears. Maybe we wouldn’t have ringing in them tomorrow after all, we thought. Ah, silly yuppies: we forgot about the explosives set off to mark the end of the show.
Being close to the stage at eye level had its downside, Claire and I agreed on our way to the car outside as we yelled to hear our own voices.
“Think of all the hearing ability Ozzy has given up for his fans over years,” Claire observed. “The least we can do is give up a bit in return.”