Black Sabbath Concert Reviews
August 7, 2007
WIN Entertainment Centre
Wollongong, Australia


  • Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
  • Tony Iommi - Guitar
  • Geezer Butler - Bass
  • Vinny Appice - Drums
  • Scott Warren - Keyboards


  1. E5150
  2. The Mob Rules
  3. Children of the Sea
  4. I
  5. Sign of the Southern Cross
  6. Voodoo
  7. Drum Solo
  8. Computer God
  9. Falling off the Edge of the World
  10. Shadow of the Wind
  11. Guitar Solo
  12. Die Young
  13. Heaven & Hell
  14. Neon Knights


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from Ron Schroer <>
date Aug 21, 2007 1:59 AM
subject Wollongong review

The Seat Nazis of Wollongong

In 1980, Black Sabbath (as they were called then) cancelled several dates of their Australian tour due to Geezer Butler’s injured hand. He’d punched a wall in Japan – as you do – and a doctor’s warning that he might permanently lose the use of one of his fingers had meant a sudden end to the Aussie tour. Making the announcement on TV music show Sounds Unlimited, Ronnie, Geezer and Vinny assured fans that Sabbath would be back ‘next year’…

27 years later, and – frankly – we’re all looking a little older and a little greyer. Heaven and Hell represents the first time since 1980 that any line-up of the Sabbs has made it Down Under. Never Say Die? Bloody lucky that we didn’t all die of old age, really.

(I’d lost patience a few years ago, and had flown from Canberra to Birmingham to witness the 1997 reunion shows. Before then, in 1990, I’d been lucky enough to see the Tyr line-up perform in Cambridge. All great shows, but something had been missing – until now.)

It was Sounds Unlimited that turned me on to Sabbath and introduced me to the voice of Ronnie James Dio. The first Sabbs song I ever heard was Die Young, followed by Neon Knights, and I was instantly hooked. Too young to see the Sabbs in 1980, it’s taken almost three decades and a name-change for this chance to see the only other line-up of Black Sabbath that could honestly be described as classic.

Wollongong is a city on Australia’s eastern coast, and site of the Port Kembla steelworks. Newcastle and Sydney are close by, and my hometown Canberra is about a two-hour drive away. So on a perfect winter’s day, I travelled with three friends to the ‘Gong to finally experience Dio-era Sabbath.

The venue was the WIN Entertainment Centre, part of a modern complex built close to Wollongong’s main beach. One of the best features of the complex is the Five Islands Brewery, a combined restaurant, bar, and beer brewery literally next door to the concert hall. Once we’d booked into our hotel, we whiled away several hours sampling boutique beers, watching the ocean, and listening to the muffled racket of the sound checks next door. We half-expected Down and the Sabbs to wander in for a drink, but sadly we saw no sign of them.

The Brewery slowly filled with Sabbath fans as the afternoon wore on, and new friendships were forged over many fine ales. It was all rather surreal, relaxing in this coastal steel town on a sunny Tuesday afternoon and getting ourselves ready for a Sabbath concert! We learned that about 2,200 tickets had sold, making for a respectable crowd but a relatively small show for the Sabbs.

There was merchandise, of course, and it was expensive (of course). Heaven and Hell and Live Evil shirts looked to be the most popular. I can’t say I saw anyone buying a pair of the Heaven and Hell g-strings! Given that my hometown Canberra can be a miserably cold place in winter, I bought a stylish beanie for those chilly mornings.

Support act Down (featuring Phil Anselmo) had some young fans there, and they were all crammed down the front where our front row seats were supposed to be. I believe that all the Australian shows were seated – maybe there was an assumption that Sabbath fans are generally too old to stand these days – so we’d gone to a lot of trouble and expense getting good tickets ($180 each), and we were quietly pissed that the hall’s prime real estate had been taken over by fans whose own seats were probably several rows back.

Down laid down their big riffs and attitude from 7:30 to 8:30. Long before the end, we’d grown tired of Anselmo’s dumbass posturing, and there was something weirdly homoerotic about the way he and his brothers-in-rock showed off their flabby beer bellies and hugged each other as the last song ground on and on… Later, a friend compared Anselmo with Dio, pointing out that Anselmo’s attitude seemed to be, ‘Look at me,’ whereas Dio was more about playing to the audience. It was a fair comment.

We’d used Down’s set to position ourselves as close to the front as we could manage, but we needn’t have bothered. The Seat Nazis of Wollongong were suddenly among us, demanding to see tickets and sending people back to where they belonged before the main event. Doubtless some people were pissed off, but we loved those fascist bully boys! By the time the lights went out and E5I50 began to play, we were right at the front, right where we’d paid to be! (And we didn’t sit for long.)

Tony Iommi – Lord of the Riff – was the first to appear, grinding out the riff to The Mob Rules, and suddenly they were all there, playing in Australia again after 27 years. It didn’t matter that the band had been comprehensively ignored by the mainstream Australian media – the fans knew that this was a special night, and that it might be many more years before the Sabbs came this way again. The band sounded fresh and tight (despite the jet-lag), and played like a well-oiled Heavy Metal machine. Most importantly, they looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Geezer, with each passing year, is looking more and more like a comfortable old teddy bear. He’s not one for making eye contact or smiling at the crowd – he only allows himself a smile and a wave at the end of the show. With him, it’s all about the hands, especially the one that Kerrang! once described as a ‘flapping rubber glove’. Although he had a pocketful of picks, he didn’t use one all night – just his fingers, sometimes moving so fast they were a blur. It was amazing to watch. He’s one of the world’s great bass players.

As for Ronnie James Dio, I can only hope I’m in as good a shape when I’m 65 or thereabouts. Californian sunshine agrees with him – he looked healthy and tanned, and he bounced around the stage like, well, an elf! (And Thank God he does, because Tony and Geezer aren’t much for moving. Ronnie once said that being onstage with them was ‘like playing with two pillars of salt,’ and it has to be said he’s right.) Most importantly, Ronnie’s voice had us rapt – it was still powerful, and it could still soar, after so many years. He really is the focal point of the band, and unlike dear old Ozzy, he can sing all night.

The first thing I noticed about the stage set was the lack of video screens. Given the price of tickets, it would have been nice to experience the full stage show as opposed to a stripped-back version. We wondered if perhaps the full show was reserved for larger venues, and if we’d see the screens in Sydney. (We didn’t.) We also wondered if we’d get more songs at a bigger show. Again, no such luck. The Sabbs are nothing if not consistent.

The set-list was, for me, a well-balanced one, and included all the classics I’d most wanted to hear. Computer God and Falling off the Edge of the World were highlights, and doomy newie Shadow of the Wind sounded like it belonged. Nevertheless, eleven songs for a concert ain’t much! I’d have preferred another song to the over-extended version of Voodoo – why not throw in TV Crimes or Time Machine – and in 2007 do we really need a bloody drum solo? Lonely Is the Word would have been so much better.

At show’s end I saluted Ronnie, and he saluted right back with a smile on his face. I couldn’t help thinking of a religious ritual as Tony and Geezer walked along the front of the stage and tossed out guitar picks to the screaming faithful. It was a great diversion – while the crowd searched desperately for little bits of black plastic, the band slipped quietly off. Clever!

Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours standing by a security fence at the back of the hall with about twenty other fans, hoping to meet the band. (One woman couldn’t wait, and squeezed herself under the fence. When last we saw her, she was being put in the back of a police car. Those efficient local fascists at work again.) The band, however, wasn’t at all interested – Tony managed a limp-wristed wave as he and Geezer were driven away, and a while later Ronnie and Vinny were quickly smuggled out. We understood that the band was travelling straight to Newcastle, the next stop of the tour, but we were still disappointed. There was nothing left to do but look for something to eat, and on Tuesday night in Wollongong that was quite a challenge.

The next morning, everyone was wearing a Sabbath shirt and a smile. It was Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules, and Dehumanizer all the way back to Canberra. After all those years of watching Black Sabbath (whatever the line-up) touring everywhere else except Australia, this concert was literally a dream come true for us. They came, we saw, they conquered!