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BLACK SABBATH / GODSMACK / DRAIN S.T.H.

Merriweather Post Pavilion; Columbia, MD; 08/14/99

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

OK, I know what you're thinking: "Didn't this Kelter guy review these same three bands at OzzFest '99 a few months back?" Yes, that's true, but I was taking pictures and I missed most of the sets by Drain sth and Godsmack - this show was a great opportunity to see these acts perform once again without interruption.

Drain sth hit the stage with all cylinders firing in perfect unison.  The Swedish quartet brought their kaleidoscope of melody and heaviness to the masses and won new fans with their confident and engaging performance. Highlights of their brief, yet excellent set included the dark groove of "Crave," the cautious "Leech," and the hauntingly catchy "I Wish" - all from their sophomore disc entitled "Freaks Of Nature." Drain sth also played the powerful "I Don't Mind" and the radio-friendly "Serve The Shame" from their debut disc "Horror Wrestling." The solid "Enter My Mind" closed their set to great applause. Drain sth made an impression on many of the concert attendees - making great impressions is something this band has been doing all summer.

Anna K, getting the most of her punchy bass, twisted and turned like a whirling dervish looking every bit the part of the rock'n'roll performer that she loves being. Martina's simple yet effective percussion was highlighted by the huge sound of her bass drum which felt like a thunderous heartbeat. Lead vocalist Maria provided an inclusive performance that reached out to everyone (including people on the lawn). Flavia's skillful six-string magic kept things heavy and melodic; Flavia's cool riffs and tasty leads are deceptively economical yet overwhelmingly impressive.

It was nice to see Drain sth perform a set with full PA and conditions that allowed for a light show. Drain sth made yet another argument for becoming worthy of radio attention; I foresee Drain sth making an impact as a major concert attraction in the years to come.

Godsmack's brawny rock is very fitting for the heat and humidity of summer. Godsmack hit the stage with twin guitars blaring on "Now Or Never." The mosh-inducing "Keep Away" led to "Situation" which was stretched out to great effect by including a spacey jam resulting in cathartic release when the tune returned to its blasting crescendo.  "Get Up, Get Out," one of my personal favorites from the debut album, included additional percussion from Sully Erna who really let his aggressions out by pounding his makeshift drum kit with animalistic fervor. When Sully sings he's really letting the emotions take charge of energies - he gives it all back to the fans. Godsmack finished the set with the huge radio hit "Whatever."

Bassist Robbie Merrill was more animated than earlier this summer at OzzFest; he roamed the stage and spiraled like a whirlwind. Drummer Tommy Stewart was able to keep the rhythm steady and audible; his drum kit was able to turn a bit which allowed him a different perspective of the stage throughout Godsmack's set. Guitarist Tony Rombolo provided another solid performance on lead guitar - Rombolo employed a number of techniques that keep the leads interesting. Godsmack were easily able to translate their debut disc's energy to the stage. The fan reaction was almost as if they would have been happy to see only Godsmack this evening.

However, this was Black Sabbath's night. The constant threat of thunder and lightning added an eerily dramatic effect to the Sabbath set. Black Sabbath evoked a vigorous response from the audience when the first strains of "War Pigs" echoed throughout the Pavilion. Classic tracks such as "N.I.B.," "Fairies Wear Boots," and "Electric Funeral" followed to great approval from the adoring fans.

Ozzy had noticeable difficulty with his vocals during "Into The Void."   However, being the consummate pro that he is, Ozzy apologized and took a few stabs at his doctor for suggesting he cancel the show, gathered his thoughts during a quick break, then plunged ahead knowing full well he had the next night to rest his vocal chords.

The set closed with poise (if a bit predictable), as the veteran outfit tore through the classic "Iron Man," the one and only "Black Sabbath" (the song that started it all), the powerful "Children Of The Grave," and a searing rendition of "Paranoid."

Quite frankly, this was the best I've heard Black Sabbath sound of the four times I've seen them in the last three years. The effortless grace with which Black Sabbath played is a testament to their experience and skill. The great sound was due in part to the fact that Merriweather Post was designed for the National Symphony Orchestra; the high content of wood (not steel) in the superstructure results in better acoustics. Additionally, I can't say enough about Bill Ward's presence and how it does wonders for capturing the original Black Sabbath sound.  

If this tour is truly the "last supper" for this legendary band then there is no better way to go out than at the top of their game. Bill Ward's drumming was clear, Geezer's bass was full of life, Iommi's guitar summoned the great spirit of all living things, and Ozzy gave his fans a performance to remember.

From the heavy melody of Drain sth, the aggressive renderings of Godsmack, to the elegantly legendary Black Sabbath, a satisfying night was had by all.


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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:17 -0400.