With Ozzy Osbourne bringing his new six-stringer to London for the first time, it made sense for use to send our residient guitar geek, Amit Sharma, to see if Gus G is up to the task of replacing Zakk Wylde.
With Ozzy Osbourne’s newest effort, Scream, hailed as one of his best in recent years, or at least as a step back towards a harder rock edge, tickets for this mini-tour of smallish venues went pretty quick. Zakk or no Zakk, this tour would be the perfect opportunity to catch the Prince of Fucking Darkness in an intimate setting. What made tonight even sweeter was that it was part of this year’s iTunes Festival, therefore free if you won a ticket.
Taking over Zakk Wylde’s spot in the Ozzy Osbourne band must have required giant, fuck-off balls of steel from Gus G. It’s no secret that a lot of the fans coming to Ozzy shows were Black Label Society die-hards too. Even Ozzy knew this – the last time he played in London, he headlined Wembley Arena with BLS supporting and Zakk had his own 25-minute solo in the main set. Of course there was going to be many eyebrows raised when he revealed he was on the search for a new gunslinger (again). Whilst there were strong rumours of John5 getting in there, it was the lesser-known Gus G of Firewind who got announced last summer. So tonight, being Gus’ first gig with Ozzy in our fine capital, was a chance for the new kid to prove himself and replace the irreplaceable. God help him…
Kickstarting the set with ‘Bark At The Moon’, the band sound fresh and Ozzy seems quite energetic, looking as possessed as always. Of course, 2 minutes into the song all eyes looked to stage left for the first guitar solo. No one ever doubted Gus’ technical ability – he’s already stamped his name as one of the world’s fiercest shredders in Firewind, and would never have gotten the gig if he couldn’t deliver. But this isn’t about technical ability, it’s about playing the songs as well as Iommi, Rhoads, Lee or Wylde have – and those are some darn big boots to fill. Hell, even Steve Vai would have found this a tough gig. No one can really emulate the aggression and attack that Zakk has played with in that spot for the past 20 odd years. And Gus answers any doubts very early on with a perfect lead, staying pretty close to the original, and making it all look effortless. Suddenly it seems tonight’s going to be something very special indeed.
The band then roll straight into new single ‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ which allows rhythm section Tommy Clufetos and Rob ‘Blasko’ Nicholson (both formerly of Rob Zombie’s backing bamd) to show yet again what a powerhouse they are together. It’s easy to tell the years of experience behind these two: they play as a unit almost telepathically, and as great as Daisley / Castillo or Trujillo / Bordin were, there is very little missing here. ‘I can’t fucking hear you’ teases Ozzy, still roaming the stage like some kind of barmy priest armed with buckets of devil water. It’s hard not to smile and have a good time when you see Ozzy having so much fun, up to his old tricks.
Following on with a few obvious choices from Blizzard Of Ozz allows Gus to further prove his point, especially during crowd favourite ‘Mr. Crowley’, nailing solo after solo. There’s an early treat in the night with a cover of Sabbath classic ‘Fairies Wear Boots’. Here is where the new axeman really shines: showcasing his versatility by playing for the song – adopting a more bluesy approach, rather than going in all guns blazing for a widdlefest. It would be fair to say he lacked the stage presence Zakk built up over the years, but this will surely come in time – these are still Gus’ first few shows.
Watch some of Ozzy Osbourne’s set from his iTunes Festival show:
The setlist tonight is actually quite a pleasant surprise and it’s refreshing to see Ozzy giving more time to pay tribute to his early years in Sabbath. As well as ‘Fairies Wear Boots’, we get ‘Iron Man’, ‘War Pigs’ plus the usual encore of ‘Paranoid’ – all of which are sung back word for word by the Roundhouse audience. There’s even the inevitable band solo, which fuses quite excitingly into some more Sabbath: the instrumental ‘Rat Salad’. Could this be the mark of a new era for a hungrier Ozzy trying to head back towards his roots?
Interestingly, there were only three songs played tonight from the Wylde years and only one song off the new release. Of course favourites like ‘No More Tears’, ‘Believer’ and ‘Miracle Man’ were sorely missed, but more Sabbath can only be a good thing and that feeling was unanimous. If the band are this good now, their headline set at Ozzfest 2010 is looking to be very promising indeed.
Ozzy Osbourne @ London Roundhouse setlist:
Bark at the Moon
Let Me Hear You Scream
I Don’t Know
Fairies Wear Boots
Road To Nowhere
Shot In The Dark
Guitar Solo / Drum Solo
Mama, I’m Coming Home
I Don’t Want to Change the World