Review:1997/07/01 Ozzfest '97 Ends on Fitting Note With Manson, Sabbath

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Ozzfest '97 Ends on Fitting Note With Manson, Sabbath
of Dead to the World Tour
Ozzfest 1997 Leg
Author Sandy Masuo
Date July 01, 1997
Source Los Angeles Times

Ozzfest '97 Ends on Fitting Note With Manson, Sabbath
By Sandy Masuo on July 01, 1997
Los Angeles Times - Entertainment
Special to the Times
Pop Music Review

Ever since Elvis Presley first swiveled his pelvis at a stunned world, rock 'n' roll has been almost as much about testing social mores as making music. Every generation produces pop-culture iconoclasts who challenge the conventions of the day, musical and otherwise. On one level, the Ozzfest '97 tour is purely a tribute to metal pioneer Ozzy Osbourne's musical legacy; on another, the festival, which concluded at Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore on Sunday, is a celebration of rock's power to outrage.

Though loud, dark and heavy was clearly the order of the day, the eight main-stage bands represented a surprising number of variations on a theme--from the dense, intense Machine Head and Fear Factory to the most pop-oriented band on the bill, Type O Negative, whose brooding melodic opuses conjured a compelling Gothic-rock mood, broken only when Pantera singer Phil Anselmo joined them for a raucous, amusing medley of metal classics by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Jethro Tull.

The levity evaporated, however, once Anselmo got down to business with his bandmates. Pantera's set blazed with precise, powerful playing and vehement emotion. Anselmo is an agitator extraordinaire, and in the past he's used the stage as a platform to make comments about race relations and other issues that cast him as a right-wing bad boy in the tradition of Ted Nugent--which is precisely what made Sunday's transition from Pantera to the next band, Marilyn Manson, so dramatic.

Though a constant stream of debris rained down on Manson throughout its set, the band forged ahead undeterred. The controversial group's biggest weakness is songwriting; as enticing as its albums sound, much of the material simply isn't very memorable. On stage, however, that shortcoming was overcome by namesake singer Manson's commanding stage presence. The songs didn't have to be memorable with Manson stalking the stage in his tawdry bondage gear, both reviling and reveling in rock stardom.

During "Antichrist Superstar," Manson donned a suit and tie, then "preached" the song from a pulpit draped in the group's logo--both lampooning religious conservatives who have been protesting Manson's appearances and satirizing the kind of rock demagoguery that had been the essence of Pantera's set. Which is why the spectacle of Pantera joining forces with Manson for an unruly rendering of Patti Smith's "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" was so stunning. It was the conceptual high point of the evening, though the musical climax was yet to come.

Throughout Osbourne's hour-plus set--essentially the same greatest-hits show he's been doing for nearly two years--the singer seemed a bit sluggish, as if conserving energy for the grand finale: the reunion of Osbourne with the original Black Sabbath (though with Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin sitting in for Bill Ward).

The group's best material, including "War Pigs," "Sweet Leaf" and "Children of the Grave," sounded as gritty and vital as anything all day. Tony Iommi's guitar work sizzled and bassist Terry "Geezer" Butler locked into the proto-grunge grooves with Bordin as if they'd always played together. Osbourne, for his part, was as dynamic as he gets (if not quite as lively as he's been), wailing with gusto, egging the audience on and even capering about the stage with his frog-like hops.

Since Black Sabbath's '70s heyday, its progeny have upped the ante considerably when it comes to rock's shock value. But in the end Black Sabbath still packed the most potent musical charge.