Review by Alan D. Welding
When one spends their hard earned money a concert ticket there is an expectation that each ticket buyer possesses. Regardless of what that persona defines as entertainment, Ozzfest 2010 in Pittsburgh delivered the goods. Often seen as a proving ground for lesser known metal acts, Ozzfest continues to provide short ear blasting sets from newcomers such as Goatwhore, Skeletonwitch, and Kataklysm and some slightly longer sets from not-so-newcomers such as Drowning Pool, Halford, and Black Label Society. The two main acts, Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne, were afforded full length blistering sets as a climactic buildup of metal ecstasy.
In true Sharon Osbourne marketing genius, the event attracts from the teen set to the well past their prime age range. The side stage acts and earlier main stage acts were highly populated by the younger end of the crowd, not only helping to fill seats in a less than stellar Summer concert season, but also afforded personal sightings of the bands’ performance rarely encountered at the outdoor shack venues.
For those who prefer the show in front of the show- the parking lot, vendor tents, and Niagara Pavilion pathways provided. It would be easy to pigeonhole the audience as white trash fest, but it would be an unfair moniker to Ozzfest patrons. The mashup of blue collar beer bashers, white collar wanna be’s, and weekend warrior bikers clashing and meshing with the real McCoys was a potential youtube video euphoria. The usual displays of public intoxication early in the afternoon was not without its amusing moments, but the vendor booths provided fuel to an already fast burning grain alcohol fire. The most popular of the booths was undoubtedly “body painting”. Any virile male looking for a Vivid Video moment would be sorely disappointed. It is possible that a different experience could be had in other cities, but this night in Pittsburgh was apparently swine and bovine discount day. Lane Bryant less than beauties literally lined up their drunken flapjack fun bags to be painted with smiley faces, Motley logos, cartoon devils, and Ozzfest ads. Cell phones clicked pictures as if Nikki Sixx himself made a cameo. Ticket holders were more amused than aroused, but regardless were left with a story and a picture for the office water cooler the next day.
Festival type concerts are often attractive for fans due to the opportunity to meet some of their idols. At Ozzfest 2010, members of Drowning Pool could be engaged at the Hatewear booth, not only for autographs, but actual conversations with their faithful. ESP Guitars sponsored a signing booth with some of their endorsees, including Ozzy’s new all star guitar ace, Gus G. allowing fans to get a picture signed or a quick photo opportunity with the suddenly famous guitarist from Greece.
Besides all of the sideshow activity, there were of course the performances themselves. Standouts of the day were certainly Black Label Society, the Crue, and Ozzy. None of these top notch performances should be taken for granted when many veterans of the business will practically phone-in their sets rather than provide the crowd its money worth.
Zakk Wylde and his band Black Label Society had much to prove. Recently sober and no longer Ozzy’s main man due to Ozzy sounding “too much like Black Label”, Zakk and company came out to chew some bubblegum and kick some ass …and they were all out of bubble gum. Launching into their opening track “Crazy Horse” of the new and eighth LP, Order of the Black, the band ripped the crowd a new one and kept bludgeoning their skulls with new material one after the other. Zakk Wylde appeared to be at the top of his game and actually reveling in the smaller stage and closer proximity to his fans. Playing a mind blowing and finger blistering solo as well managing superb vocals on songs such as “Parade of the Dead”, “Overlord”, and “Suicide Messiah” left the crowd wanting more from an outstanding performance.
Motley Crue was an unexpected treat for their fan base. After Cruefest 2 wrapped up the band announced they would be taking some time off to work on solo projects and also write the next Crue record. The fact that Tommy Lee’s second effort as Methods of Mayhem and Vince Neil’s new autobiography and record titles appropriately, Tattoos and Tequila, were in the can certainly helped when the man who gave them their start during the Ozzy Bark at the Moon Tour in 1984 called them up and asked them to take a break for a six city tour. Opening up with “Kickstart my Heart” and rolling through classics such as “Home Sweet Home”, “Ten Seconds to Love”, “Livewire”, and “Don’t Go Away Mad” were highlights in a fire and smoke breathing set that left the audience winded. Not being the headliners allowed little time for the usual Motley indulgences, but made for a faster paced and jam packed set that did not disappoint. Everyone was at the top of their game, most notably Mick Mars, who despite his physical disabilities, can still show the crowd what a true master of the fretboard sounds like.
To top it all off was of course the man of the day, the Prince of Darkness himself, John “Ozzy” Osbourne. The opening of his set began with a film inserting Ozzy to the culture of today. Starting with Oz in Avatar and moving on to scenes in Twilight, Jersey Shore, a Lady Ga Ga video, and of course IronMan 2, among others was not only technically and visually brilliant, but downright comedic genius. It was so well done that many wondered if Ozzy was more of an actor than previously thought and that maybe all those crazy ramblings on “The Osbounes” reality show was nothing more than an act…a household friendly senile demon character crafted by his manager wife and mass produced by MTV. But once the big blue Ozzy sign lit up and the music started all conversations died in order to soak up a best of set list including his solo career and Black Sabbath. Highlights would definitely be songs from the first two records with Randy Rhoads that seem to fit new guitarist Gus G. quite well. “I Don’t Know”, “Crazy Train”, “Suicide Solution” were just a few of the Rhoads-era songs blasted out and superbly sung by Ozzy who seemed to be in top shape and truly enjoying himself. “Bark at the Moon” of Jake E. Lee era and Sabbath tunes like “Faeries Wear Boots” and “Into the Void” were standouts as well, along with the new single, “Let me Hear You Scream”.
It is a testament for the bands such as Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne to headline a successful festival tour in an economically affected concert season. Even the two night performance of Paul McCartney (of which some Ozzfest performers such as Nikki Sixx were spotted) could not deter the hard metal Pittsburgh crowd to filling the place to capacity. With abundant entertainment on the stage and in the crowd, Pittsburgh was fortunate enough to attract Ozzfest among bigger cities. With rumors of Ozzy touring with Black Sabbath for next years event, those in the Pittsburgh tri-state area can only hope the Godfather of Metal will grace us with his presence again,.