We should have known Ozzy Osbourne wouldn’t quit.
When he billed his latest string of shows No More Tours 2, a throwback joke to his first retirement in ’91-’92 dubbed the No More Tours Tour, fans thought that, nearing seventy, he was finally stepping down as the reigning Prince of Darkness and would no longer grace the world with his introspective classic metal bangers.
Nostalgic rockers scrambled to buy tickets to watch history fade away.
It was a smart ploy for selling seats. But last night at Denver’s Pepsi Center, Osbourne made one thing clear about retirement plans: “That’s a crock of shit.”
From the moment he opened with projections of a scrapbook of Ozzy photos and the song "Bark at the Moon" until "Mama, I'm Coming Home" looped in my head over and over again as I drank my third cup of coffee and typed these words, I've been glad he isn't done.
Unlike some performers who can’t kick their addiction to Icarus-style youth culture even as they over-ripen into their older years (think Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses, bless his memory), Osbourne’s wearing his age well — in an amiable-old-coot sort of way.
Clearly, the singer’s joints don’t work like they once did. When he attempts to run from one side of the stage to another to raise the audience’s energy, he does so with an endearing old bluesman shuffle and warm grin.
There’s no superhuman, Jack Palance one-arm push-ups antics here, no yoga-limbered dance moves, not even the classy kind of minimalist performance Denver just saw from ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne at Red Rocks.
When Ozzy tried to do a high kick, his leg didn’t go higher than his knee. When he waved his arms above his head, back and forth like a children’s singer compelling the audience to do the same, he looked like a smiley Muppet — just as ”fucking crazy” as he pledged to be, but a little more Fozzie than Ozzy.
None of that’s to say that there’s anything embarrassing about Osbourne. He still knows how to rock a crowd, and his audience members — many as old as he is — couldn’t get enough.
Performing under a massive cross that at times looked like something from a Vegas chapel and other times burned (yeah, bad optics in our rise-of-the-Klan alt-right era) with skulls all over it, he banged his head as best he could.
Later in the show, Zakk Wylde slayed fans when he entered the crowd — as he nearly always does — masterfully playing in various sections of the arena, instrument behind his head, picking out parts with his teeth, breathlessly hammering out solos.
As he walked through the audience like the guitar god he is, he boasted a well-earned, confident grin hidden behind all that Cousin Itt hair of his.
The wickedly talented drummer — also near-Muppet — Tommy Clufetos, who's been with Osbourne since 2010, banged out an epic, frantic solo, arms flailing, feet pounding two bass drums, faking that his moment in the spotlight was over again and again and then ripping into another beat that churned up the crowd's energy. His musicianship nearly surpassed Wylde’s.
By the time the show started crescendoing toward a close with the hits and Osbourne announced his last song, “Crazy Train,” he seemed so sincere it really looked like the end had come — though, considering the insincerity of his tour's name, fans should have known better.
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Just after playing, he suggested to the crowd that it chant “one last song,” and it did. So he graced us with “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” his voice drowned out by his fans.
After that number, with a grin he told the audience to do the “one more song” chant again, and it obeyed.
He finished up the night with Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” The band waved at the crowd, took a bow, and the show was over.
Long after the lights came up, many stuck around hoping for another glimpse of the Prince of Darkness, who no doubt deserves to maintain his throne — aging bones and all.