Over the weekend, Black Sabbath performed their first concert since reuniting (again) with singer Ozzy Osbourne at England’s O2 Academy. More significantly, it was their first concert since guitarist Tony Iommi had been treated for lymphoma. Much to the chagrin of the band’s fans, though, drummer Bill Ward wasn’t with the group… and his conflict with Sabbath played out online through the weekend.
Last week, Ward posted a lengthy message on his website discussing his decision not to participate in Black Sabbath’s three 2012 concerts, citing, among other things, a “totally unsatisfactory contract.”
Before Saturday’s concert, bassist Geezer Butler posted a note on his website, saying that the other members of the band were unaware of Ward’s issues (“Frankly those things are worked out between our representatives, and never between the four of us let alone in public”). He confirmed that Tommy Cluefetos, who plays drums in Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, would be filling in for the absent drummer.
Also before the concert, vintage photos of the band had been edited to remove any images of Ward from the group’s official website. When fans responded negatively on Twitter, Sabbath addressed them quickly via a press release, saying, “At the request of Bill Ward, through his attorney, so as to not give the public the wrong impression about his involvement in the current Black Sabbath lineup, we have temporarily removed Bill Ward’s images from the main pages of the blacksabbath.com official website. In accordance with Bill Ward’s attorney’s request, we are doing so for the duration of the forthcoming shows.”
The O2 concert was a benefit for Help For Heroes (an organization that aids British soldiers after they return from combat, learn more about the organization here), and served as a warm up for the band’s upcoming date at England’s Download Festival June 10. The concert featured the band playing classics including “Paranoid,” “Iron Man” and “War Pigs” as well as rarities like “Wheel Of Confusion” and “Dirty Women.” The show was well reviewed, and by all reports, Iommi looked healthy.
After the show, Butler posted a brief message: “Thank you, thank you, thank you Birmingham. Best fans ever- you brought out the best in us. It was a privilege playing for you tonight. Tony was a hero- you were the best medicine he has had.”
On Sunday, Ward responded to his former bandmates yet again, rebutting some of Butler’s claims: “I had indeed notified Ozzy, Tony and Geezer, well before my first public statement, that I was having contractual difficulties… The band members stopped talking and corresponding with me some time ago, with the exception of a nice letter from Tony on my birthday. Prior to that, Geezer and I were corresponding, but that stopped abruptly in late February after I emailed a specific question to him.”
This week, Osbourne kicks off an “Ozzy & Friends” tour of Europe which will feature Butler. Black Sabbath’s lone U.S. date is at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago on August 3. Osbourne, Iommi and Butler are also working on a new Black Sabbath album.
–Brian Ives, CBS Local