While the rain and grounds worsened, Ozzy Osbourne packed in the crowd and Duke Dumont warmed it up.
The annual grousing that accompanies a Voodoo lineup is partly the grousing that accompanies any festival lineup (as Jazz Fest can tell you), and I suspect it’s partly a way to ask “Where is the rock?” For years there were two main, rock-oriented stages and Voodoo was undoubtedly more rock-oriented. Switching one of those to Le Plur was partly a recognition of who the audience is for festivals, but it also highlighted a basic question: Where are the rock bands? Ones that can draw the numbers necessary to top a main stage bill? The world simply isn’t making them.
I attribute at least part of the very respectable crowd that braved the rain and mud for Ozzy Osbourne and Friends to that phenomenon. He may be 67 and retro as hell, but he rocks. He dodders around the stage genially, but his music is hard. It helps that he has a body of well-liked songs between his solo albums and Black Sabbath, and that he still sings with the voice of shocked alarm that has long been his signature. His attention to pitch isn’t what it was, but he got a pass on that, I assume because he rocks.
For me, the low point of the show was Gus G.’s extended guitar solo alone on stage, which segued into a second solo accompanied by the band, which gave way to a drum solo. Both traditions were pantsed by This is Spinal Tap and seemed hopelessly silly. All of those tiny notes played on a guitar better shaped for medieval warfare than than musical expression, while in extreme power poses only found before in Frank Frazetta Conan art. Everything about him and the moment seemed straight out of an episode of Remington Steele.
Despite all the cheese, the middle 45 minutes of the set were powerful as Ozzy played a Black Sabbath set that included “N.I.B.,” “Snowblind,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” and “Iron Man,” the last of which featured Slash, Tom Morello, and Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler. Those songs have an idiosyncrasy that holds up far better Osbourne’s solo material. After the intro to “Crazy Train,” the only signature element in Ozzy’s solo material is his B-movie sensibility, and Roky Erickson trod the same ground and mined it more effectively for personal horror.
Still, Ozzy has an interesting dynamic in concert as his band hits on heavy metal’s core subtext—power—without irony. It’s the part of heavy metal that’s often unpleasant, but onstage, Osbourne is so obviously not a power character. He doesn’t even walk well, and his stature is built up with shoulder pads in his jacket that would make Joan Collins envious. He doesn’t pretend to be a powerful figure though, and his lyrics often present him as out of control in one way or another. Maybe one offsets the other—the band muscles Ozzy up, but he keeps it from being musclebound.
When Tom Morello came onstage early in the set to join the band for “Mr. Crowley” and “Bark at the Moon,” it was clear why. As a young guitarist, some of Ozzy’s material was likely in his learning process, even if Morello’s songs show little Ozzy influence. Joining Ozzy’s band for a night also gave him a chance to access his inner meathead. He got to be a heavy metal guitar hero and clearly enjoyed playing the role. During one solo, he raised his guitar to show the audience its back, where he’d posted the sign, “Ozzy Rules.”
Maybe a similar mix of appreciation, affection, and rock ’n’ roll pleasure accounts for the audience as well. Maybe Osbourne is simply that popular, but it’s hard to hear in his own songs what would make as many as did brave the rain and deteriorating grounds conditions to see an older man play a dated version of rock ’n’ roll. Maybe they’re so starved for rock that they’ll take what they can get. (Alex Rawls)
At first, Duke Dumont seemed better suited for a European club than the soaking wet crowd, ankle deep in mud at Voodoo. After kicking things off with "Won't Look Back," Dumont followed with slow, decidedly less accessible tracks. A younger group to my right chatted and passed around a sunscreen bottle flask.
Suddenly, Dumont hit his grove. “Chunky” by Format:B led to a collective breath of herb-scented excitement. An extended mix of "Need You 100%" followed, which drove away the instant-gratification seekers and left the remaining crowd with ample room to dance.
Dumont kept things rolling towards the end of the set with, MK’s "Always (Route 94 Remix)," his track "The Giver (Reprise)," and finally, a mash-up of “Bullit” by Watermät and “I Got U” that segued into his recently released single off Blasé Boys Club, “Ocean Drive,” for an electrifying finish. One of the most complete sets at Voodoo so far. (Justin Picard)