Thursday, August 10, 2000

Ozzy shows why he's still the best

Ozzfest features many bands, few hits

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        The hip-hop insurgence reared its head at this year's Ozzfest, but the bands that played vintage hard rock held their ground at Riverbend Tuesday.

        Of the 19 bands who performed during the 13-hour, two-stage festival, many, such as Methods of Mayhem, P.O.D. and Taproot, incorporated hip-hop elements such as turntables and rap vocals into their sound. However, three hard-rock stalwarts — Pantera, Godsmack and Ozzy Osbourne — topped the bill and most captivated the crowd.

        Another band, Queens of the Stone Age, also played rap-free hard-rock and put on the second-best set to Mr. Osbourne's earlier in the day on the main stage.

        The things that make Mr. Osbourne not only the archetypal heavy-metal performer, but the most enjoyable to watch, are a self-effacing sense of humor and an endless supply of great songs.

        Most every metal vocalist sings with a growl and a scowl, as if trying to scare the viewer into liking him. It was common practice at Ozzfest. But not with the headliner.

        He began the show with a funny video montage: Ozzy in The Sixth Sense (doing something vulgar); Ozzy in American Pie (ditto); Ozzy in a Britney Spears video (you get the idea).

        Then the music came, an hour-and-20-minute set heavy on solo Ozzy. With a four-piece band backing behind him (including a keyboardist who played from the side of the stage out of sight), Ozzy sang his best-known solo material, including “Crazy Train,” “Mr. Crowley,” “Suicide Solution,” “No More Tears” and “Mama, I'm Coming Home.” From his Black Sabbath days he pulled “Paranoid” and “War Pigs.” No phony growling or scowling by the Oz — his searing voice and bug eyes were spooky enough.

        Queens of the Stone Age are one of today's finest rock bands, metal and otherwise. They put on a very good set, but this wasn't the time or place to take them in.

        There was no Ozzfest show the previous day, but QOTSA didn't take the day off. They played a club date Monday night in Champaign, Ill., before their set Tuesday afternoon at 1:30.

        Guitarist Josh Homme said he'd just awoken, and a couple of the guys greeted the day by drinking Coronas through their half-hour set. They managed seven songs, including three from their fantastic new album, Rated R. From that album they played the punk-paced “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” and the more they chanted the song's only line — “nicotine Valium Vicodin marijuana ecstasy 'n' alcohol” — the more they seemed like the last hope for anyone looking for a good new metal band that doesn't rap.

        “We didn't bring the rap, we just brought the rock,” bassist Nick Oliveri correctly stated. Nobody cheered. Everybody sat. It wasn't their crowd. Here's hoping they return to town for a longer club show.

        Pantera was third best. The band was quieter than Godsmack, who preceded it, but better in every other way. Its music has no commercial sheen and its style doesn't evolve. It renders its metal dirty and basic, as metal should be. And Phil Anselmo's scream tops Sully Erna's Vedder-esque baritone any day.

        As for the worst act on the day, the choices are many, but Tommy Lee's Methods of Mayhem deserves mention. It could be said his leaving Motley Crue was a poor career decision, but the way his new group hits upon every rap-metal cliche can only mean it's bound for commercial greatness.


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