The first time I saw Ozzy Osbourne was in 1986; it was the tour for The Ultimate SinHis backing band featured guitarist Jake E. Lee, bassist Phil Soussan, drummer Randy Castillo and keyboardist John Sinclair. With all due respect to the Prince of Darkness, it wasn't a great show. At that time, he seemed unsure of his place in heavy music; it seemed like he was trying to compete with the younger pop metal acts like Bon Jovi and Ratt. To make matters worse, the opening band on that show was an up-and-coming group called Metallica, touring for Master of Puppets; Cliff Burton was still alive. They were still an underground band with something to prove and played with rage and fury.

Last night's concert at Northwell Heath Jones Beach Theater in Long Island, New York, more than three decades later, was a much better show. As all of Ozzy's fans know, this is the cheekily-named "No More Tours 2" tour; the name is a reference to the fact that Ozzy's 1991-1992 "No More Tours" tour, which was supposed to be his farewell trek. Since then, of course, Ozzy has released a handful of albums, reunited with Black Sabbath and become a bona fide pop culture icon. He's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (with Sabbath; one could argue he also deserves to be inducted separately for his solo career), and is still enough of a star to show up on the covers of celebrity-obsessed magazines.

So, this time around, Ozzy is confident of his place in history and he isn't promoting a new album. He also happens to have what might be the best band of his solo career (which I say with all due respect to the late Randy Rhoads, who deserves to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ASAP): Bassist Blasko and drummer Tommy Clufetos make up the most powerful rhythm section Ozzy has ever played with, with the exception of Geezer Butler and Bill Ward in Sabbath's early years. (Clufetos played on Sabbath's final tours, and looks and plays like a true Sabbath disciple).  Adam Wakeman, who played for Sabbath's tours as well -- albeit behind a curtain -- is a great keyboardist, but since he also plays guitar, he doesn't feel the need to add keyboards to every song (I recall in '86 hearing keyboards shoved into songs that didn't require them). He's an important part of why Ozzy's band sounds as solid as it does.

The return of Zakk Wylde to Ozzy's band made the biggest impact on the show.  His energy, enthusiasm and love for the material and Ozzy (who he always refers to as "The Boss") raises everyone's game, and their game was already pretty great; I saw the band in 2010 with Gus G. on guitar; with all due respect, it felt like something was lacking. Wylde's presence adds an intensity to the band; this music is a religion to him (in his spare time outside of playing with Ozzy and his own band, Black Label Society, he also fronts a tribute group, Zakk Sabbath). This was most apparent during an extended jam on the Sabbath classic "War Pigs," when Wylde went into the audience playing an incredibly intense and precise guitar solo while surrounded with fans. He didn't miss a note, even when playing behind his head, and then transitioning into a medley of Ozzy solo tunes, including "Miracle Man," "Crazy Babies," "Desire" and "Perry Mason." That led into Clufetos' drum solo -- a reminder that he's one of the best drummers in metal in 2018.

That extended instrumental segment made a good argument that Wylde, Blasko, Clufetos and Wakeman should play together even after "The Boss" retires. But the highlights of the show were, of course, when Ozzy was on stage. Powerful versions of "Bark at the Moon," "No More Tears," "Mr. Crowley," "Suicide Solution," "I Don't Know," "Crazy Train" and Sabbath's "Fairies Wear Boots" thrilled fans. Even The Ultimate Sin's "Shot in the Dark" sounded better in '18 than it did in '86. While some fans (including this one) may have been disappointed that Ozzy's classic second album, Diary of a Madman, wasn't represented in the setlist, it's churlish to complain that you didn't get every song you wanted from a guy with nearly five decades of music to choose from.

How long will "No More Tours 2" go on for? Will there be a "No More Tours 3?" Who knows. But if you love the man and his music, you'd be wise to catch him one more time on this tour.

"That man taught me everything about what I do," Corey Taylor, wearing a vintage (and maybe bootlegged) Ozzy t-shirt said about Ozzy Osbourne, during Stone Sour's opening set. "I owe him everything." It's not easy to open for an artist of Ozzy's stature; rock band Rival Sons opened for Sabbath on most of their farewell tour and got polite responses from audiences, but didn't threaten to overtake the headliners. It's fair to say that Stone Sour's set lovingly put Ozzy and his band on notice: the audience was already amped up from their ten-song set that featured some of their best songs, including "Knievel Has Landed," "Song #3," "Bother," "Through Glass" and "Fabuless." The theater was full for Stone Sour's set and the fans knew the songs; it was the perfect opening set and the band was clearly stoked to be there. They challenged Ozzy and he -- and his band -- were more than up to the task.

Stone Sour New York September 8 2018

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