Black Sabbath at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 7/25/2013
What can even be said about a Black Sabbath show in 2013? You know what you're in for: good times with one of the all-time greatest rock and roll bands. The experience is one that defies a simple explanation. It's becoming a part of a unique phenomenon; entering into a hallowed stature of "those who have seen Black Sabbath perform." Isn't that why any of us go to see classic rock bands: for another notch on our belts?
Of course, there is the off chance someone was at Cynthia Woods last night to see Black Sabbath because they happened to pick up their latest album, 13, in stores, having somehow been oblivious to the band for the past 40 years, liked what they heard, and decided to see them live.
Hey, stranger things have happened, and it at least seems to be what Black Sabbath would like to believe themselves.
Let's face it: this band does not consist of spring chickens. These guys have been around the mulberry bush. That makes it all the stranger that their approach seems to be designed to prove a point about their relevance.
For those who remember, the last time "Sabbath" came through was under the Heaven and Hell guise with the dear, departed Ronnie James Dio as their front man. Though they did put out a record with Dio during the brief reunion before his passing, they seemed to look at it through a lens of honesty. Perhaps Dio's earthbound personality grounded them, but the whole thing played as a nostalgia tour.
Black Sabbath in 2013 will be having none of that. Sure, they opened with "War Pigs," they closed with "Paranoid," and somewhere in the middle they played "Iron Man," with a seemingly winking acknowledgment of the songs' incredible popularity, but this is a band that seems almost restrained by their past more than proud of it. Running through "War Pigs" at the beginning felt like a chore. When they got to delve into "Into the Void" and "Under the Sun" after it, they came to life.
They wouldn't be the only ones bored with the classics, but then if we were taking account of the audience's boredom, it would spike any time the band decided to play something off of 13. It's hardly surprising that people would be less than enthused to hear a classic-rock band's new material, except for two things: people bought the hell out of the record and put it at No. 1 on the charts, and Sabbath seemed to be at their most vital and alive when they were playing the new songs.