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Black Sabbath affirms its legendary status during farewell show at Sprint Center

Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath at a Chicago concert in January. The band played Wednesday night at the Sprint Center.
Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath at a Chicago concert in January. The band played Wednesday night at the Sprint Center. Tribune News Service

This tour was christened “The End” because supposedly, it will be the last time that the three founding members of Black Sabbath will perform together live, those three being Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler.

Wednesday night, the trio and fill-in drummer Tommy Clufetos spent 90-plus minutes inside the Sprint Center reminding 12,000-plus fans that Sabbath was the chief architect of hard-rock and heavy metal and that fads and fashions may come and go, but bedrock elements survive and endure.

They opened with “Black Sabbath,” the first song of a 14-song set list, most of which tapped into the band’s definitive sound: a harried and varied mix of rock and blues with some psychedelic colorings that occasionally veered into progressive rock, with an occasional tip of the hat to near-jazz.

It’s mostly dark, gloomy music that indulges in excesses, lyrically and musically, and features songs built on indestructible guitar riffs and lyrics that can be shamelessly overdramatic. And it all works together, an alliance of components that invented and defined a genre.

The set list catered to fans of the band’s earliest and most beloved songs, classics like “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Paranoid,” “N.I.B.,” “After Forever” and “Children of the Grave.” The sing-along to “War Pigs” seemed to impress Osbourne, who otherwise spent considerable time trying to coax more noise out of a crowd that seemed to be plenty loud and frenzied.

Throughout the set, Butler and Iommi delivered their goods with the kind of stoicism you’d expect from someone performing a task for the thousandth time. It didn’t affect their performances, though.

An underlying theme of a show that was supposedly a swan song for a band touring for the final time was how it revealed the breadth and depth of Sabbath’s influence.

Iommi delivered an arsenal of seminal riffs that have been pillaged, plundered and pilfered by generations of guitar players. During nearly every song, you could play a game of ‘Who does this sound like?’ Or: ‘How many bands stole this?’

Whenever he’s on stage, Ozzy is the center of attention. This evening he was his usual self, mostly a singer with a loose commitment to melody and pitch and a cheerleader who spiritedly tried to keep the fervent mood aflame. His charm is not easy to describe, but it’s affective and infectious. He’s one of the few people who can get away with demanding — four times in a row, at one point — that the crowd make more noise. This evening, the Prince of Darkness was bundle of goodwill and cheer.

During songs, he was in steady motion with varying results. Sometimes he ambled forward deliberately, like a guy stumbling from bedroom to kitchen, hell-bent on getting his morning cup of coffee. Other times he stood at the microphone, waving and raising his arms, trying to arouse a crowd that didn’t really need the prompting. The mood in the arena was feverish most of the night, though it waned once or twice during the deep album cuts.

Aside from a five-minute drum solo from the shirtless Clufetos, which was about three minutes too long, the show was well-paced and an entertaining mix of songs for the casual fans and songs for the diehards.

If this truly was Sabbath’s farewell , it’s one that is hard to digest. Osbourne, 67, still has issues with carrying a melody, but he looked and sounded as good or better than he has in more than a decade of Kansas City shows. Black Sabbath has been making music for nearly 50 years, but clearly it is not a band running on fumes.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Set list

Black Sabbath; Fairies Wear Boots; After Forever; Into the Void; Snowblind; War Pigs; Behind the Wall of Sleep; N.I.B.; Hand of Doom; Rat Salad; Iron Man; Dirty Women; Children of the Grave. Encore: Paranoid.

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