The End

Black Sabbath

Breaking up is hard to do. Although in the 1970s, you wouldn't think so. The Beatles did it. So did the Moody Blues, Deep Purple, Humble Pie, CSNY, and a slew of others. Most of them got back together. Others staged farewells. Cream did one in 1968. The Band followed suit in 1976. The Who have done several, and they're still around. Today, as bands have aged, it's all about retirement. The Scorpions have been on their retirement tour for seven years. As for Black Sabbath, their last tour was precipitously called The End. And their final concert in their hometown was called The End of The End, which is the name of the film documentary. For purposes of brevity, the DVD/CD set of that last concert is simply called The End. And this time, they mean it.

Black Sabbath's storied five decades have hardly been easy. Singer Ozzy Osbourne left the band at the end of the 70s and went on to become a successful solo artist and TV personality. Guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward kept going with Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan. Then Butler and Ward left, and Iommi stayed on as the band's only constant with a revolving door of players. The original lineup reunited at 1985's Live Aid concert, and again in the late 90s. From 1997 through 2006, they toured here and there, and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Five years later, it was announced the original Black Sabbath would reunite once again for a tour, and would record their first new album together since 1978.

Unfortunately, things went awry when Bill Ward bowed out due to contractual disagreements and Tony Iommi contracted lymphoma. Osbourne, Iommi and Butler brought in drummer Brad Wilk to make the planned album, 13, and Tommy Clufetos to do the tour. Iommi worked through it, while Ward claimed betrayal to the press. Once The End tour was announced, speculation was high that Ward would rejoin, but it didn't work out that way. Perhaps saddest of all was that he was not part of the final show in Birmingham, captured in The End of The End documentary and The End DVD/CD. Talk about finality.

The documentary only offers snippets of the concert, along with band interviews commentary, and the Angelic studio sessions that followed the Birmingham show. If you want to see and hear the whole concert, The End live set is what you want. Sentiment aside, this is not necessarily Black Sabbath's best concert. For one, Osbourne's vocals are a little out of step on the song "Black Sabbath." It's commendable to include deeper cuts like "After Forever" and "Dirty Women," even though the set is fairly standard. There isn't a single number from the 13 album, which says a lot about it's impact. Sonically, of course, it's as heavy as you'd expect, although Bill Ward's drumming is sorely missed. Previous live collections like 2013's Live...Gathered In Their Masses and 1998's Reunion stand on their own, but they don't carry the historical significance of being Sabbath's last performance. In the end, that may be the best thing about The End.

~ Shawn Perry

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