New Year’s Eve at the Forum in Los Angeles
Writer: Larson Sutton Photos: Stevo Rood plus some provided by MSOPR
Let’s begin 2019 with a conclusion: Ozzy Osbourne knows how to throw a ripping good New Year’s Eve party. On the threshold of the next annum, the Prince of Darkness brought together several of the scene’s most iconic artists for a thundering one-off OzzFest at L.A.’s fabulous Forum. Utilizing Southern California’s seasonable temps, both indoor and outdoor stages became settings for a day-long barrage of some of the heavy metal genre’s most enduring and diverse, culminating well-past midnight with Osborne himself ringing in the new.
The festivities started in early afternoon as Wednesday 13, challenging anyone for the most demonic wardrobe, kicked-off the ensuing 11 hours of music, beginning in the Forum parking lot with a half-hour romp. Next, Devil Driver took their turn as the ramped-up revelers began arriving, hitting their peak attendance during the dusky set that followed by Zakk Sabbath, led by Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde, wearing the first of his pair of kilts for the party; (this one, purple, and suitable outside the former home of the Lakers and Kings).
The party moved inside, with a “dinner” set by the hard-punching Body Count. The metal/hip-hop hybrid’s performance was somewhat brief, but notably jarring, with Ice-T, better known these days for his successful acting career portraying a police officer, instead dipping back, in this OzzFest debut, to his roots as a musical powerhouse and dressed ironically in an inmate orange jumper. Next was Korn’s Jonathan Davis, providing the night’s most musically surprising moment, by comparison, injecting upright bass into his otherwise electrified assault.
Body Count Set list: Body Count’s in the House, Raining Blood / Postmortem (Slayer cover), Bowels of the Devil, Manslaughter, No Lives Matter, Body Count, There Goes the Neighborhood, Talk Shit, Get Shot, Cop Killer, This Is Why We Ride
Yet, it was during the final three appearances of the festival that the Forum, filled to capacity, transformed into something of a multi-media metal phantasmagoria. It started with Marliyn Manson’s slot, with the enigmatic Manson spitting as he took the stage in a sleeveless black T-shirt, searing his way through several set piece changes and outfits. He shredded his voice, told stories of breaking an ankle on this very stage, held fire in his hand as he sang from a pulpit, and jibed between the years of his lengthy career with older nuggets and newer incitements, such as “Say10,”- among the evening’s most provocative highlights. Manson closed with a cover, giving the Eurythmics’ classic “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” a make-over that, in turn, seemed to draw out an underlying fitting cynicism beneath the gloss pop ‘80s hit.
Rob Zombie, in flashy bell-bottoms and fringe jacket, stalked the stage, hopping onto his riser, singing of fornicating in a UFO, lit by nearly a dozen video screens, under, over, and behind him. If Manson’s set was a theatrical wonder, Zombie’s was cinematic. Each song was supplemented by a visual supporting attack, raising the hedonistic impulses of the singer and his three-piece band to arena rock spectacle. The messages were often clear and repeated like, “get high” on “In the Age of the Consecrated Vampire We All Get High,” from 2016’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. (Admittedly, that album title offers perhaps a better, more colorful summary of Zombie’s performance than even this writer can.)
There was a giant furry alien walking about, and a question, winking to Zeppelin’s Robert Plant’s similar query years ago, as to whether anyone remembers mayhem, as Zombie implored the mostly-seated Forum faithful to rise and rock. He ran through his hits, like “Thunder Kiss ’65,” and an homage medley encompassing five decades of subversive influences, melting The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” into The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” joined on the latter by Manson. He also managed, lastly to serve up a teaser trailer for the next installment in his film work, due in 2019, with a sneak look at Three from Hell.
And then there was Ozzy. In a way, Osbourne’s appearance was something of a debt repaid to the L.A. throng. Though he has already scheduled a proper make-up date in summer of 2019 for a cancelled Hollywood Bowl show this past October, this evening felt just as much like a triumphant return to SoCal as it did a reimbursement after the unfortunate hospital stay in autumn delayed his tour.
He arrived smiling, taking the stage in a purple robe at 11:30 pm, after a brief video encapsulating his notorious and prolific almost 50-year career. That’s the real secret of Osbourne after all these years of work: He still has a lot of fun. Yes, the preceding nine hours of music was loaded with overdriven guitars, abdomen-rattling drums and bass, an overdose of blackened clothing and imagery- in sum, all the things that make metal music a wonderfully affecting participant in music’s parade- but in the end, his purpose feels celebratory and joyously cathartic.
Osbourne opened with “Bark at the Moon,” amidst Wylde’s blistering guitar, Blasko’s galloping bass, Adam Wakeman’s period-appropriate keyboards and harmony vocals, and the incomparable timekeeping of Tommy Clufetos on drums. He shed the robe, and yes, in all black, worked through a trio of songs- “Mr. Crowley,” “Suicide Solution,” and Black Sabbath’s “Fairies Wear Boots,”- that took Ozzy and his mates to the precipice. After a countdown of the final ten seconds of the year, shooting flames, bursting cannons of paper Ozzy-medallion confetti, and laser lights ushered in 2019.
The band churned through “I Don’t Know” and “No More Tears,” then onto a “Road to Nowhere.” With a siren’s whine came the show’s peak of musicianship as the five tore into Sabbath’s glorious commentary, “War Pigs,” that saw Ozzy duck backstage for Wylde’s solo that took the guitarist wirelessly through the audience up into the highest reaches of the Forum, then back to the stage again only to cede it to Clufetos for a monster drum workout. A final three songs ended with the full house off the rails, singing every word, riding the “Crazy Train,” as a devious Ozzy showered the front rows with the spray of a fire hose.
To the chants of “one more song,” they returned for the power ballad “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” and a balloon-and-streamer drop on the frantic and marauding drive of the “Paranoid” finale. As the Forum emptied into the brisk night air, the pre-recorded “Changes” played over the P.A. Every new year brings changes, for sure, but to see and hear Ozzy Osbourne, the godfather of metal, back onstage in Los Angeles, leading the charge of another terrific OzzFest, is something certainly these fans hope remains a constant.
OZZY SET LIST:
Bark at the Moon
Suicide Solution (with extended Zakk guitar jam)
Fairies Wear Boots (Black Sabbath song)
New Year’s Eve Countdown
I Don’t Know
No More Tears
Road to Nowhere
War Pigs (Black Sabbath song) (with extended Zakk Wylde… more )
Miracle Man / Crazy Babies / Desire / Perry Mason (Instrumental)
I Don’t Want to Change the World
Shot in the Dark
Mama, I’m Coming Home
Paranoid (Black Sabbath song)
Changes (Ozzy & Kelly Osbourne song)