Black Sabbath: Download Festival 2012

Words by Simon Hadley.

Photos: Dave Hogan and Simon Hadley.

“When we first formed 40 years ago, I had no idea we’d be here doing this,” mumbled Ozzy Osbourne before his brothers-in-arms: Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and their newest comrade, Tommy Clufetos, launched into ‘Dirty Women’.

In truth, Ozzy’s right: drugs, booze, women, lawsuits and contact disagreements would bury any other band; however, as their video package emphasised: this is Black Sabbath. At 63, Osbourne is seen by most as a caricature: furiously leaping around the stage, yelling “Louder!” before drenching the crowd with buckets of water, and telling them to go “Fucking nuts, man!”.

While Ozzy is the figurehead, the band’s creative soul is “Ironman” Tony Iommi. Currently battling lymphoma – a battle we all know Iommi will win – it is his mesmerising playing on a crucifix-adorned fretboard that has cemented Sabbath’s place as the greatest metal band of all time. Introduced by Ozzy as “one of the strongest guys I know” Iommi, looking healthy and relaxed, was visibly touched by Download’s deafening ovation: wiping a tear from under his trademark glasses.

With “Mr Geezer Butler” also on form – his near-perfect bass solo between ‘Behind The Wall of Sleep’ and ‘N.I.B’ was one of the highlights – Black Sabbath’s encore, consisting of ‘Children of the Grave’ and ‘Paranoid’, sent their mud-stained followers into raptures. Taking their bows to a blaze of fireworks and devil horns, murmured chants of: “woah-oh-oh-oh, Sabbath, Sabbath” could be heard long into the night.