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Ozzy Osbourne is less dark and a little more prince

Ozzy Osbourne at the Air Canada Centre In Toronto on Saturday

If misery loves company, what does crazy prefer?

A madcap barked at the moon on Saturday, urging everyone to do the same. "The crazier you go tonight, the longer we'll go," is the deal Ozzy Osbourne proposed to the absolutely willing. "Let the madness begin."

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And indeed, lunacy - however premeditated and warm it may have been - is what happened. An exhilarating two-and-a-half hour concert, the final of the eight Canadian stops which opened the singer's Scream World Tour, was a ritual outpour of call-and-response heavy-metal music. It was nothing less than a hard-rock colossus and a psychic jailbreak, led by a so-called Prince of Darkness who becomes more prince and less darkness as he creeps ever nearer towards his dotage.

On his latest solo album, Scream, Osbourne sings (if you can call it that; let us say "bellows") about his role: "I'm a rock star, I'm a dealer, I'm a servant, I'm a leader, I'm a saviour, I'm a sinner, I'm a killer - I'll be anything you want me to be." A full house at the Air Canada Centre caught a bit of all of those characters and a full dose of the malleability too, especially the benevolent ruler bit.

With his ear-splitting four-piece band behind him, we saw an average-Ozzy millionaire superstar who continually cupped his ear - not because of his tinnitus, but because he wanted a crowd more rowdy. And when the well-mannered hooligans-for-the-night complied, they got back their noise in spades - monstrous galloping, shredding, bruising sounds and a few Bic-lit softer numbers thrown in for dynamic's sake.

Osbourne's dark street isn't one way: On a handful of occasions the paunchy 61-year-old slumped to his knees, bowing I'm-not-worthy-like to the audience. And if this long-haired lark sprayed the front rows occasionally with a firehose of foam, he got some of the goop on himself as well. (Also, water: Osbourne drenched himself often, using a continually resupplied bucket in front of the drum riser.) Judging by the set list, Osbourne's short-term memory may be failing: From his ast two albums just one song (the imploring thrash-and-chug of Let Me Hear You Scream) was heard. It's doubtful anyone minded, not with Bark at the Moon, Mr. Crowley, Suicide Solution, Flying High Again and Crazy Train on the docket. Osbourne's voice was shouting and serviceable, though not the dooming weapon of the past. On the power ballads, particularly Mama I'm Coming Home and the forgettable I Just Want You, Osbourne believed in horseshoes and hand grenades - hitting the notes precisely was not required, close enough would do.

The Englishman didn't perform on Sunday, but he did work the Sabbath: Fairies Wear Boots, War Pigs, the Neanderthal-era Iron Man, Into the Void and a penultimate, turbo-charged Paranoid had the front man back in black.

A long instrumental interlude gave rest to the wicked singer. It sounded more Deep Purple than anything else, with the fire-fingered Gus G. (who follows in an illustrious line of Osbourne guitarists) displaying imposing familiarity with his fret board.

"Fools and prophets from the past," Osbourne intoned Shakespearian on I Don't Know, "Life's a stage and we're all in the cast." His own unlikely 42-year career has been a haphazard but lucrative folly: from Black Sabbath's gloomy, satanic heavy-metal overlord to the Betty Ford Center-visiting solo star to the doddering, stuttering, granny-spectacled reality-television personality and now to an apparently sober singer who commendably takes his job much more seriously than he takes himself.

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There's an endearing quality to Osbourne; he's an eccentric character to be sure. His jolly legions take his craziness and give it back to him two-fold, though. And if his critics see him as some sort of village idiot, be that as it may. Great village. Great idiot.

Set list

  • Bark at the Moon
  • Let Me Hear You Scream
  • Mr. Crowley
  • I Don't Know
  • Fairies Wear Boots
  • Suicide Solution
  • Road to Nowhere
  • War Pigs
  • Fire in the Sky
  • Shot in the Dark
  • Iron Man
  • Killer of Giants
  • N.I.B.
  • Flying High Again
  • Into the Void
  • I Don't Want to Change the World
  • Crazy Train
  • Mama I'm Coming Home
  • Paranoid
  • I Just Want You (encore)

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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