This being virtually a home gig for the Ozz, a fact brought home dramatically by the sudden appearance of Tony lommi, there’s a high degree of tension in and around the dressing room as support band Budgie quit the stage.

Brandishing an evil-looking elbow-spike and silly ‘torpedo’ hat, finally and wisely given over to his young son, the chainmailed one paces away relentlessly while Pete ‘Angel Of Death’ Way, having to play two new basses and short on rehearsal time, finds himself similarly on edge. There’s a point to be proved tonight; namely that behind the stunts and the sensationalism there lurks a genuine rock ‘n’ roll outfit capable of delivering without the trimmings but, on this occasion, poor sound, scold venue (there’s a blizzard raging outside too) and a somewhat jaded Ozz leave the band initially unconvincing.

‘Over The Mountain’, ‘Mr Crowley’, ‘Crazy Train’, ‘Revelation Mother Earth’, all come and go devoid of the usual clenched passion and it isn’t until ‘Goodbye To Romance’, delivered sadly without ‘Ronnie’s’ pendulous support, that Ozzy strikes up an arm-swaying rapport with the 6,000-plus assembled.

From here on in it’s emotional event, climaxing with the traditional lapse into Sabbath oldies, Ozzy by this time beaming ear-to-ear, ‘Sweet Leaf’, a new addition to the set, having already been dispensed, the end spot is reserved as per usual for ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Children Of The Grave’, the latter coming across even better than on ‘Talk…’ with Tommy Aldridge, quite possibly the world’s best hard rock drummer, locked into double-bass drive and the fast-burgeoning Brad Gillis still managing to hold his guitar on the brink of feedback and roll two riffs into one, a feat that must have left the on-looking lommi considerably perplexed.

Pete Way, though not really on a par with the Americans, follows his pre-gig brief (“GO MENTAL!”) to the letter and provides some welcome onstage camaraderie for the Ozz. The ex-UFO-er is now a fully fledged, fully initiated Blizzard member, though how long Gillis and Aldridge will remain in the band is uncertain-the former has commitments to Night Ranger the latter to Hughes/Thrall.

If they do go then Ozzy will certainly have a tough time finding replacements of equal stature but this pensive note shouldn’t really cloud the fact that the show, complete with giant metallic hand cradling the On high above the stage before the encore ‘Paranoid’, was a success-in the end, at least.

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