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Ozzy's up to his old tricks, and that's OK

The set list is circa '83, but his showmanship and band carry the day.

December 03, 2007|Greg Burk | Special to The Times

Happy birthday, Ozzy Osbourne -- he's 59 today. So how's it going?

Well, the body's pretty bashed up from all the accidents and intake, but the spooky croon still cuts it. He lacks the zap to rehearse his 30 best hits or much new stuff, but he'll wither if he doesn't perform. What to do?

The answer Friday at Staples Center: Keep recycling most of your 1983 set, the bible of melodic metal. Drag out the ol' fire hose. Pump classic inflation into recessionary times.

And lean on the ripped deltoids of Zakk Wylde, who was born in 1967, the year before Ozzy joined Black Sabbath. Long hair blowing in the stage wind, cutting a big figure even at big distances, the bearded and kilted axman gave Ozzy what he needs most: unpredictability. Though he hewed close as always to Randy Rhoads' guitar scripture on the baroque 1981 ballad "Mr. Crowley," Wylde claimed substantial solo territory, especially in transition from the feral riffing of "Bark at the Moon" into a howling, tearing extended improvisation wherein he ate up the entire stage alone -- beating his chest like a great ape, fretting behind his back, picking with his tongue, the whole catalog.

Ozzy must have had time for several cups of Earl Grey. He had already ridden the skidding rails of "Crazy Train" and thrown a bone to the '90s with the beautiful mope "Road to Nowhere." (He was singing about "the wreckage of my life" 16 years ago.) Now he was ready to close big, with the irresistible sing-along ballad "Mama, I'm Coming Home" and a rather sloggy huff through Black Sabbath's alienation nugget "Paranoid," which nevertheless showed off the textured hugeness of Mike Bordin's drumming.

The music throbbed hot, but Ozzy has long plied a second creative outlet: the disgusting, hilarious film parodies with which he always sets up his shows. A future career?

Rocker Rob Zombie, also the director of this year's "Halloween" film remake, preceded Osbourne with his arena-filling thud. Lingerie dancers, shooting flames, a 10-foot robot and screenings of vintage go-go porn made for nonstop eye candy, nicely . . . edited. And scary clown John 5's tricks with spittle have grown nearly as slick as his wild, slippery guitar workouts.

L.A.'s In This Moment, fronted by pigtailed screamer Maria Brink in an "Alice in Wonderland" dress, opened with its versatile, high-energy modern metal. These racers know how to rev.

This concert's take was dedicated to the colon-cancer charity of Ozzy's wife, Sharon Osbourne.

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