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Welcome to the headbangers' ball

August 02, 2004|Lina Lecaro | Special to The Times

You've got to hand it to the headbangers -- they're one dedicated bunch. Metal may no longer dominate the charts as it did a few years ago, but for its long-locked, devil-horn- and chest-flashing fans, it still rules the universe.

This relentless enthusiasm has helped Ozzfest, which returned to the Hyundai Pavilion on Saturday, remain the most depraved and decibel drenched of the annual summer concert tours. And if the fervency of the crowd at the ninth-annual event was any indication, it's not about to dry up anytime soon.

As always, the gathering commenced mind-numbingly early, at 9:30 a.m., and never let up, with lesser-known thrashers whipping up dust clouds on the second stage in a nearby field.

By 5 p.m., when the focus moved to the main stage, there was a definite distinction between those who had roughed it all day in the dirt and sun and those who had arrived later, although the weary glow of the day quickly faded as temperatures dropped and Superjoint Ritual assaulted the audience with rage-packed numbers and boastful banter.

By comparison, Norway's Dimmu Borgir, which followed, seemed like a pack of dreary ghouls with no backbone. Their white-painted faces, gothic garb and mystical, orchestral-tinged offerings might have been ominous in another context, but smack dab in the middle of two mega-grinders (Slayer followed with its pummeling, old-school chant-alongs) it just didn't connect.

Speaking of old school, the reunion of Judas Priest with original lead singer Rob Halford was the main event for many, and the band did not disappoint, revving up hits such as "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin' " with precision and feisty charm.

Halford, who hadn't played with his bandmates since '91, didn't shy away from his famed flamboyance, taking the stage in a black-fringed evil-Elvis get-up and slipping into different jackets and coats throughout the set. With a shaved head and a few extra pounds, Halford might look different, but his voice was spot-on, with his powerful croon faultlessly conjuring the campy decadence of Priest's reign.

The tour's namesake, Ozzy Osbourne, seemed reinvigorated playing with his original comrades from Black Sabbath, which closed the show. His high-pitched wail was noticeably off-key at times, but even so it was one of his best Ozzfest sets in years. With '70s-style visuals and effects on songs such as "Iron Man" and "Fairies Wear Boots" (and the modern ones during "War Pigs"), Sabbath's show had a retro vibe but never felt dated. Much like Ozzfest itself, it had enough menace to please new fans and weighty groove to satiate the old faithful.

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