TAMPA - A sea of hands rose with two fingers up in heavy metal salute Monday night as the curtain went up and the first notes of Black Sabbath's doom-fueled classic "War Pigs" blasted through the MidFlorida Amphitheatre.
Ozzy Osbourne, reunited with founding Sabbath members guitarist Tommy Iommi and writer/bassist Geezer Butler, are out on their first tour in more than a decade.
After jumping and furiously head-banging his way through "Snowblind," the 64-year-old Osborne dumped a bottle of water over his head and took in the crowd with wide eyes and a maniacal smile before giving them a simple message:
"Thank you for my life."
Osbourne repeatedly gave thanks and expressed his shock over the fans giving the reunited Sabbath a No. 1 album to tour behind - the first U.S. No. 1 of the group's 45-year career.
For more than two hours, Osbourne prowled the stage with the energy, if not the stature, of a younger man. Yes, he tottered around at points, pot-bellied and a bit hunched over like a mischievous, f-bomb-dropping grandpa, but he did it with gusto, mixing it up by jogging the length of the stage and whipping water at the crowd from his long, drenched hair.
And, most importantly, the Ozzman's voice is in good shape. He may not have quite the powerful yowl that he once had, but his vocals were more than strong enough all the way through the end of an encore that closed with "Paranoid."
Butler and riff-master Iommi both sounded great in the open-air amphitheater. Iommi, whose recent cancer treatment had postponed the band's recording, put on a particularly impressive display of guitar work. Despite the illness, he doesn't seem to have lost a step.
Gone are the days when a Black Sabbath concert would draw religious protesters upset over the group's perceived Satanism. At least no protesters were observed at the Florida State Fairgrounds, except for the ones in archival footage projected on a giant screen behind the band during "Under the Sun." That footage included crosses exploding and nuns kissing, among other things.
What I did see was lots of kids with their parents, such as the father and son sitting in front of me.
"We go to all kinds of metal shows together," said Howard Golden, 48, slapping his 14-year-old son, Nick, on the back. "He's my concert buddy."
Could he have imagined going to an Ozzy Osbourne concert with his parents when he was 14?
"Nope. No way," he said laughing.
So maybe it's true when metal heads say "heavy metal never dies." The fans however, have definitely grown up.