Look, there’s no getting around it: Ozzy Osbourne does not sound good these days. Years of drug use, hard living and shouting at crowds have robbed the once-mesmerizing singer of much of his vocal power, and while on record his voice can be fine-tuned and pitch-corrected to sound decent enough, in a live setting his singing is flat-out painful. From the moment he sang the first note at last Friday’s concert at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, the 62-year-old Osbourne sounded flat, off-key and out of step, and although he drifted in and out of the melodies of his songs, even when he was in tune he still mumbled and slurred many of the lyrics. Add to that his awkward shuffling around the stage and repetitive audience patter (a drinking game cued to the singer saying “Show me your hands!” or “I can’t hear you!” would have gotten you wasted after two or three songs), and you have a show that’s far more sad than exciting.
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Mandalay Bay Events, January 28
Osbourne (or his manager-wife, Sharon) still knows how to put a band together, though, and his team of backing musicians was top-notch as usual. Too bad the mix was muddy and indistinct, then, muffling the impact of wunderkind new guitarist Gus G. (of the Greek band Firewind). Gus got his chance to shine during a too-long solo segment (followed by arena rock’s most useless tradition, the drum solo), but he brought almost too much flash and flair to the quartet of Black Sabbath songs (all from the classic 1970 album Paranoid).
Aside from new single “Let Me Hear You Scream,” Osbourne didn’t play a single song less than 20 years old, and staples like “Crazy Train” and “Bark at the Moon” are classics for a reason. Of course, that classic status is exactly why it’s so painful to hear them butchered by their creator. At least opener Slash, another hard-rock veteran, left with most of his dignity intact. He too wallowed in nostalgia, with a set heavy on Guns N’ Roses songs and a singer who sounded like he was doing an Axl Rose impression, but unlike Osbourne, Slash can still coax some pretty damn good sounds out of his instrument.