On American Independence Day, the world's most iconic heavy metal band took over one of London's most beautiful Royal parks. Here's five things we learned watching Sabbath's homecoming...
Black Sabbath, British Summer Time Festival
Venue: Hyde Park
Supports: Soundgarden, Faith No More, Motorhead, Soulfly
THE CAVALERA BROTHERS SHOULD ENGINEER A PROPER SEPULTURA REUNION PRONTO
Halfway through Soulfly's (7) set, we had to take a second glance at the billing for the day to check that we weren't watching the wrong band. Pulling out a greatest hits set for one's biggest UK show in a decade is understandable, but when almost half of Soulfly's set is in fact a Sepultura set, one wonders whether the people involved just don't do the decent thing and work out the logistics involved in what is surely an inevitable reunion. Watching Igor Cavalera join his big bro for an impossibly thrilling Roots Bloody Roots is an incredible wake-up call, and Arise is simply a beast. Soulfly played Soulfly songs too, not one of which could touch the Seps covers. Sorry Derrick, it's time.
WHISPER IT, BUT MOTORHEAD NEED TO BOW OUT
"We are Motorhead (6), and we play rock n' roll." Few sentences are more thrilling, more a guarantee of a good time. So why doesn't this feel like a celebration? The answer, if we're honest with ourselves, is that the end is fast approaching. There has to be a reason that Mikkey Dee pulls out a five minute drum solo four songs into Motorhead's 45 minute slot, and that reason is that Lemmy simply can't do this like he used to. The man has nothing to prove, he's the single greatest heavy metal icon in history, and his contribution to our world is immeasurable. Lost Woman Blues, from last year's excellent Aftershock album, is undeniable proof that Motorhead at their best can go toe to toe with anyone. And, obviously, Killed By Death and Ace Of Spades are timeless and deathless encapsulations of rock n' roll at its most special. But... jeez, it's impossible to look at the gaunt man in the black cowboy hat and not feel a twinge of concern. Lem, we love you, but you owe us nothing more.
THE WORLD WOULD BE AN INFINITELY BETTER PLACE IF FAITH NO MORE WERE THE BIGGEST BAND IN IT
"Your mother sucks cocks in Hell." And 'Hello!' to you too Mike Patton. The power of Christ is compelling when harnessed for the greater good, and tonight San Francisco's vicars of volume deliver a Saturday service that is as uplifting as it is twisted. Here's a bald fact: Faith No More (9) were the single greatest band of the 1990s, and tonight they are nothing less than jaw-droppingly brilliant. The prospect of a new album from the subversive Bay Area quintet is mouth-watering, but this evening's 75 minute set is a glorious reminder of just what a superb, unclassifiable band Faith No More are capable of being. Opening with an unholy trinity from The Real Thing _- 25 years old now! - in the shape of _Zombie Eaters, From Out Of Nowhere and Epic, FNM sound magnificent, and Patton is in hilariously foul-mouthed, provocative form. "It's okay metalheads, you can sing!" he sneers mid-way through a butter-smooth version of Easy. "That wasn't so bad, was it," he asks at the end. "You've still got your masculinity haven't you? Or did all your balls just collectively drop?" The regular set draws to a climax with a new song, provisionally titled Leader Of Men, and a second newbie kicks off the encore, both of as dark and unsettling as one would expect from these professional irritants. More please.
SOUNDGARDEN SOUND BETTER THAN THEY EVER HAVE DONE
So, somehow, we missed the memo. It's only after a brutalising Mailman that we twig that - wait! - Let Me Drown + My Wave + Fell On Black Days + Mailman = Holy shit, Soundgarden (8) are doing Superunknown start to finish! Duh! From there on in, the Seattle quartet are simply devastating. Pearl Jam's Mike McCready strolls onstage for the album's title track, Black Hole Sun shimmers in the late evning sunshine and The Day I Tried To Live would raise the roof if the grunge vets weren't playing under clear blue skies. Quite simply, this is a masterclass.
BLACK SABBATH ARE THE GREATEST METAL BAND EVER. FACT.
So, is this the end? Ahead of Black Sabbath's (8) sole UK show of 2014 Tony Iommi let slip that the quartet have no more gigs on the docket, and no future plans. If this is indeed the final curtain, it's one Hell of a way to go out. Sabbath tonight are extraordinary - muscular and nimble and simply crushing. From opener War Pigs through to the closing Paranoid, the Brummie trio plus drummer Tommy Clufetos are masterful, with Ozzy - on the occasion of his wedding anniversary - sounding more powerful and more imposing than at any time in recent memory. There are moments - on Into The Void and Children Of The Grave especially - where Sabbath sound utterly imperious, and to hear the likes of Black Sabbath and Fairies Wear Boots is to be reminded that this is The Source, the fecund centre from which all life in our world springs. And the yearning for more is undeniable. We waited 35 years for a new album, you take your time gents, we'll be right here when you return.