Live review: Ozzfest at San Manuel Amphitheater
It's a day of metal as Ozzy Osbourne and Mötley Crüe headline this year's Ozzfest.Headlined by Ozzy Osbourne and Mötley Crüe, the first California-sited Ozzfest since 2007 kicked off a limited six-city tour at the San Bernardino-adjacent San Manuel Amphitheater on Saturday with all the color, stench, physicality and camaraderie you expect from heavy metal.
In the quarter-mile entry line, a middle-aged parolee and a young Army vet compared survival notes. A bikinied woman with a bloody nose fled a stage-front mosh collision.
“Are you ready for me?” begged Osbourne, announcing the fest's final set. After 12 bands and nine hours of music, the answer was still yes.
Osbourne's replacement of flamboyant longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde with Gus G., a dark-maned Greek, ratcheted the spotlight toward the singer. Ozzy never hires undazzling axmen, though, and Mr. G.'s speed, control and rhythm shone bright.
Osbourne further revivified his standard presentation (“Mr. Crowley,” “Bark at the Moon,” etc.) by adding the aggro chant of the current “Let Me Hear You Scream” and some fresh oldness from his Black Sabbath years, augmenting his usual “Paranoid” with the hippie hopper “Fairies Wear Boots,” the bluesy instrumental “Rat Salad” and the heavy epic “Iron Man.”
For the encore of the hard-charging signature “Crazy Train,” he trotted out a 9-year-old Japanese boy to shred quite capably on a polka-dot Randy Rhoads Flying V. Heads up, Gus.
Mötley Crüe justified the durability of their anthemic pop-metal — kick-starting rough, celebrating with the recent homeboy brag “Saints of Los Angeles” and coalescing behind stompin' renditions of “Ten Seconds to Love” and “Don't Go Away Mad.”
Vince Neil's voice cut clean and high; Nikki Sixx thudded his bass with platformed cool; a slurry-tongued Tommy Lee harangued the assemblage between pounding his drums and settling at the piano. And it was an inspiration to behold top-hatted Mick Mars, 59 and afflicted with near-paralyzing arthritis, still yanking outrageous wah-wah solos out of his white Stratocaster.
Halford, the band fronted by Judas Priest wailer Rob Halford, surprised many with the instantly accessible tradition-plus material from its two studio albums, plus the lumbering Priest nugget “Victim of Changes,” the solid title cut from Halford's upcoming “Made of Metal.”
Best overall set: Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, exiled to the dusty Second Stage. The newly sober Wylde displayed no loss of radness, singing like a bear, tearing up a five-minute guitar solo and nailing the doom-laden riffs and bulldozer tempo changes.
Though all the aforementioned stood rooted in pre-1985 metal, succeeding decades had their say.
DevilDriver raged with hard, modern precision. 2001 Ozzfest holdovers Drowning Pool grabbed the throng with syncopated heft and gritty vocal melody. Frisco thrash vets Exodus retained youth's jumpy energy.
Ozzfest commanders Sharon Osbourne and her son, Jack, introduced the unknown California Wildebeest as “friends of the family”; the band's '70s riff-and-whirl unexpectedly scored more devil horns than middle fingers.
Attendance continued on a downslide, whether because of the bad economy, bad karma from the 2005 sabotage of Iron Maiden or continued traffic issues. It certainly wasn't the talent.
-- Greg Burk
Photo: Ozzy Osboune in 2007. Credit' Getty Images