Bands look and sound tough, but Ozzfest lacks bite of its heyday
MANSFIELD -- Gods and monsters. Ozzfest 2007 had plenty of monstrous-looking (and often sounding) bands. And it had its deity, Ozzy Osbourne, who isn't usually ranked alongside those rock gods of smoldering looks and stunning voice.
However, when the 58-year-old stepped onstage at the sold-out Tweeter Center on Monday, following a hilarious video montage spoofing such programs as "The Sopranos" and "Entourage," the raccoon-eyed star received a touchingly warm standing ovation.
Until then, anything remotely warm was absent during the daylong festival. The second stage -- in the parking lot -- was where the afternoon action played out, leaving the main arena oddly quiet, a dead zone until the late evening and not the usual madhouse.
For the first time, this year tickets were free. Sort of: You got them from the corporate sponsors' websites or from buying Ozzy's new album, "Black Rain." Once the main arena kicked in, an announcer offered an upgrade to the front seats for $20. A line quickly formed at the box office. Twenty bucks to get a decent view of the remaining few bands, if not just to see Ozzy himself? It was a no-brainer. Which brought into question the wisdom of free tickets. You get what you pay for and no ticket revenue meant no strong supporting cast. All bands went without pay this year, which is nothing new to no-namers, who play only for the massive exposure Ozzfest brings.
Monstrous, hardly imaginative songs masquerading as spectacle ruled the day, sadly. Connecticut-based Hatebreed closed the second stage with its popular growling, oafish thunder. When young Miami quartet Black Tide opened the main stage and veered away from the growl, grind, and glower, it seemed revolutionary. Yet Black Tide's classic '80s metal simply channeled Motorhead and Metallica -- they slipped in a cover of Metallica's "Hit the Lights" -- into shred-heavy numbers with (gasp) a singer who actually sang.
After that, it was on to cartoon metal as Finland's theatrical Lordi growled through anthemic classic metal, dressed in monster costumes and punctuating every song with a pyrotechnic blast. Los Angeles quartet Static-X's Giorgio Moroder beat-backed metal seemed elegant in comparison. But like Lamb of God's turgid riffs, which followed, it soon palled.
Lamb of God's banner read "Pure American Metal," an oddly singular slogan given Ozzfest's decidedly international cast -- besides Lordi and stylish Taiwanese metalheads ChThoniC, there was Behemoth, a Polish death metal group with a Gothic penchant.
Ozzy was nothing if not delightful -- and childish as he splattered the audience with foam and water. His voice, never a critically acclaimed instrument, was off on a few numbers -- he said he was getting a throat infection -- but he rose to the occasion on the unwieldy Sabbath classic "War Pigs," which was anchored by drummer Mike Bordin's commanding stokes. (Nostalgia note: Bordin's previous band, Faith No More, covered the Sabbath song early in its career.)
Speaking of nostalgia, there was plenty of it ("Mr. Crowley," "Bark at the Moon") along with new songs. Later, Ozzy beseeched people who had been drinking not to drive. "I [expletive] love you all," he called out to the outstretched arms before him.