Black Sabbath, the iconic architects of heavy metal, find themselves at the end of 2013 as a band with nothing left to prove to anyone. Despite almost losing Tony Iommi to lymphoma at the start of 2012, the group still managed to pull through and perform at the Download and Lollapalooza festivals alongside a show in their native Birmingham, and managed to record their first album of original material with Ozzy Osbourne for almost 25 years. Tonight in Birmingham is the homecoming show of the tour for their number one album 13 and Black Sabbath enter it on top of the world.

An air raid siren emanates from the front of the venue and there’s a familiar dark silhouette hidden behind the curtain. The opening power chord to War Pigs rings out deafeningly across the venue and the curtain drops to reveal the reason 15,000 metal fans of all shapes, ages and sizes have turned up this evening.

Ozzy is on top form, looking the healthiest and liveliest he has been for a good fifteen years, bounding around the stage with the energy of a youth on a lemonade binge. Whilst the crowd would easily lap up a reserved performance from the enigmatic frontman, he pulls no punches in putting on a show, jumping up and down repeatedly, laughing in the face of his ankles, taking tea breaks between songs and throwing buckets of water over the security guards.

The newer material from 13 slides in all too comfortably alongside the classics. The only break in energy of the evening comes from a drum solo that lasts a few minutes longer than it needs to, considering the drummer is the only one on stage who wasn’t part of the original Sabbath line-up.

Closing out on a rapturous rendition of Paranoid, Black Sabbath walk away comfortably knowing that they’ve somehow managed to raise the bar again and shame every other performer in the genre from the past 45 years. There’s nowhere to go but down for Black Sabbath now surely, but as long as they can keep trundling themselves onto a stage, they’ll always find a way to exceed every expectation in their own unique way.

Aidan Ducker

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