Backstage with Black Sabbath

I’m sitting down to write this on August 22nd, 2008. This is the same day that I’m about to see H&H again as part of the Metal Masters Tour. Odd that I’m writing this 15 months after the concert, and on the same day I’m seeing them again. I always meant to write this one, but I go so behind in 2007, I put this to the bottom of the pile. This “review” will again be more of my experience at the show, not so much of the concert itself. Part of the reason I let this slide is because what happened to me will seem like ego tripping to some people. Despite this site being here, and despite the fact I’ve been doing it now for 13 years, I still view myself as a fan. I try not to ego trip when I can avoid it, as my personality and my religion generally don’t let me do this. However, once in awhile it’s unavoidable, especially when talking about my experiences backstage. So that’s what I’m going to do. Write a bit about what happened to me.

First off, let me add that this concert was a big pick me up. Two days before this, I was back home in Philadelphia for the funeral of my stepfather. It was a rather sad and depressing trip, and coming home to something like this was a great antidote to the bad feelings I had being at the funeral of a family member. So I head down to the arena, and given that I couldn’t care less about the band Down, I hung out in the lobby. I called Pedro Howse (Geezer Butler’s nephew, and guitarist in the GZR project), and he said he’d come out and collect me, as we were going to hang out backstage with the band before they went on. So we waited in the lobby, and I’m getting progressively more tipsy after several extremely overpriced beers, just shooting the shit. Down finished, checked in with Pedro, no answer, so he probably got tied up doing “concert shit”. Now I was interested in seeing Megadeth – I had seen them once before in the early 90’s, but I would have liked to see ’em. Still, I wanted to not miss Pedro’s call – there’d be no way I could hear the phone (or him) if I was inside, so I continued to hang out in the lobby. Eventually Pedro called and said we’d have to meet up after the gig, so I and my friends went in to check out the end of Megadeth. If you remember my review from 2005, I was on stage for that gig. Pedro did ask me if I wanted to see the gig from the stage this night, but with Dio being back, I opted to actually use the tickets left for me by the band, so I stayed in the venue for that. One of the reasons was that while it is cool seeing a gig from the stage (as I did in 2005), it isn’t the same as seeing from the audience, and this night I wanted to sit out front.

Eventually, Black Sabbath came on, and it was what you’d expect. Band was tight, had a great time watching ’em. I’m not going to get into the performance part, because I am writing this 15 months later (so I don’t really remember it in detail), plus what more needs to be said about Black Sabbath? Tony / Geezer / Ronnie / Vinny – if it’s not the original four, this is probably the best it can be. So if you’re reading this review, I don’t need to explain the band to you. You know it. It was badass. Although I will say this. It was great seeing some infrequently heard live tracks – especially Computer God. One of my all time favorite tracks, and I probably gave myself a serious headache from headbanging. When I saw this gig, I was 41, and the kind of headbanging you do when you’re 20, done at 41 can really hurt. That’s me in the Pittsburgh Steelers shirt.

So the gig is over, and my friends and I are wearing the pass you see above, and we’re out in the lobby. Had several people who never actually said anything to us just kind of “hang around”. Kind of amusing, as they probably were going to try and see where we were going, figuring we were going to meet the band. Which we were, but it was amusing to get that kind of passive attention. So I got a hold of Pedro again, and told him we were having some issues figuring out where to go. He said to go to a certain spot, so we tried, but the security was not letting us through. They also cleared the place out in a MAJOR hurry – we were actually escorted out of the arena – back outside. To be honest, at this point, I’m thinking the night was over, as we had been effectively thrown out (along with everyone else – and I mean EVERYONE). So I called Pedro again, and we made our way all the way around to the back of the building where the buses and trucks and whatnot come in. There was a locked, guarded gate back there, and there was a handful of people (roughly 20 or so) already back there, probably waiting to get a glimpse of the band. Called Pedro again, and he eventually showed up at the gate to collect us. He had a word with the guard, and the guard came and unlocked the gate, which of course prompted just about everyone who was out there to come towards the gate. Was interesting that Pedro pointed to me and I told him which two people were with me. The gate was locked again, and it was amusing hearing the people offer Pedro shit to let them backstage. One was money (something like $1000 bucks), and Pedro responded with “Don’t need the money, mate!” So we get taken backstage, and were told to not move and wait in a hallway. It was a hallway outside of the respective dressing rooms for the Sabs. Waited a few minutes, and kind of had a “Whoa shit – this is cool feeling”. Probably had that look, too.

Some time passed, and we were eventually collected by Pedro and went to Geezer’s dressing room. After some introductions, and some pictures (see below), we got done to some general bullshit talk. Talked about Doctor Who, beer (the fellow in the picture above with me acting like a moron makes his own beer), and various other things. Talked about the gig a bit, and had a few drinks. Geezer invited us to partake of the food in his room – I of course hit the fridge and the beer. I mean, free beer in Geezer Butler’s dressing room? HELL YES! :) I teased Geezer about his Aston Villa FC. He never goes anywhere without their team flag, and it wasn’t in his room. He claims it was already packed up in the equipment truck (which was entirely possible), but the fun of giving a rock star some shit was too tempting. :)

Eventually Tony Iommi came into the room, and more intros ensued. The picture above here is of Richard (Levelord) Gray, a long time friend of mine from the gaming industry. BTW, Geezer isn’t really drunk in this picture, he was talking to someone on the couch which you can’t see. Anyway, it was around this time that I realized I was recognized by the band. This was when I had mentioned to them 2008, and briefly talked about the (then in 2007) major rumors about them touring with Ozzy for the 40th anniversary. Tony responded quite deadpan and said “Well, you haven’t heard, but…” and went into a story about how there was a new album, and tour and all that. Apparently I bought it hook line and sinker, because a minute later Geezer & Tony started laughing their asses off and pointed at me – Tony going so far as to say “Man, look at his face!” OK, when the band is playing practical jokes on me, you know you’re cool with ’em. Also, when Tony first walked into the room, he actually remembered me from backstage in 2005. He also apologized to me for not complimenting me on the Sabbath site when he met me for the first time in 2005. That was a major ego blast for me – Iommi was apologizing to me for the Sabbath site. I don’t know if you remember, but I did an April Fool’s joke back in April of 2007 which talked about Dio qutting the tour, and being replaced by Ian Gillan. I talked to the guys about that joke, and relayed the fact that some people got genuinely mad at me because of it. They thought it was darn funny. Having a laugh with the band was a great personal moment.

So the talking eventually got out into the hallway, and Scott Warren walked by. Didn’t say much to him, just introduced myself, with a “Hi Mate” kind of thing.

At this point Ronnie James Dio had wandered out into the hallway, and I wanted to go over and say hi to him, and waited patiently for him to finish talking to whom he was talking to. During this time, one of the Sabbath roadies came up to me and introduced himself. Apparently I had people watching me because of my work here – something that never occurred to me. Despite its success, I still view this website as a “small little thing” I do, so when I get recognition for it, I’m still kind of amazed by it. I was told by one of my friends later on that the guy who introduced himself to me said something I didn’t hear. This guy apparently said “Is that Joe Siegler from the Black Sabbath site? I need to go introduce myself.” I never heard any of that, but again – ego trip! Shortly after this, I ran into Simon Wright, who apparently was on tour with the band, I went over and said something to him as well, as I had all of his AC/DC work. Mentioned the old Blow Up your Video album to him, and he said “Bloody hell, that’s awhile back”. Exchanged a few pleasantries with him as well, and then made it back to Ronnie.

I introduced myself, as the guy who does the Sabbath site. Unclear if he really recognized me or not, but he certainly seemed to. I said something about having run afoul of his wife, as I had posted a picture from tour rehearsal before the 2007 tour started, and I was “contacted” by Wendy Dio about my having posted that picture. When I told Ronnie I had “run afoul of his wife”, his response was “Yeah, done that a few times”. We chatted about the old days, told him I’d seen him in just about every incarnation of “Dio” there was, and apologized for an event in 1995 when some jackass was throwing beer cups on stage, almost forcing Ronnie to walk offstage. He got a chuckle that I still remembered that kind of stuff. We talked for awhile, I mentioned his old stuff from the 50’s, asked if it would ever be re-released, you know that kind of talk. I also was joking with him, and referred to George W. Bush as “his buddy”, which prompted Ronnie to say “He ain’t my buddy – fuck you too!”. So we parted after a handshake, and at this point I briefly ran into Vinny Appice, who was nowhere to be found up until now. Thanked him for returning, talked about connections to the past, and asked if it felt weird about playing Cozy Powell’s gear on the new tracks. He said no, but it felt like an honor for him to bring Cozy into the current again if for a short piece like that.

Shortly after that, we found Pedro and Geezer again, said goodnight. At this point, we were backstage for about an hour, and the band was getting ready to pack it up and head to the buses for the next stop. We showed ourselves out, headed home, and talked a lot about what had transpired. For this Black Sabbath fan, it was one seriously fun night. Again, I have Pedro Howse to thank for his making sure we were taken care of. Couldn’t have done all this without you, mate!

Joe Siegler
siegler@black-sabbath.com

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