Friday, July 27, 2007

Ozzy Osbourne’s free Ozzfest comes to town


In 1996 Ozzfest became the first full-fledged touring heavy metal festival.

This year, courtesy of select sponsors, it’s the first free major festival tour. Ozzy Osbourne, Lordi and Hatebreed are fronting the bill that’s stopping Monday at Verizon.

It’s obviously a good deal for fans who get free tickets. But some within the concert industry see this unprecedented move as a good business decision by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne just to keep Ozzfest afloat.

“It allowed Ozzy Osbourne to get one more paycheck out of (Ozzfest), to be 100 percent honest,” said Kevin Lyman, organizer of the Warped tour that will be at Verizon Aug. 15. “Sharon’s a smart person, but basically that’s what it is. It’s a ploy, straight up. Ozzy’s getting paid to do that show. She was struggling to put (together a bill) because she keeps charging more and more and selling less and less tickets. The attendance of that tour has been dropping for many years, and she keeps having to spend more on the talent to get people to the shows.”

The Osbournes say it’s a rebellion of sorts against rising costs, not only from the participants’ fees but also from ticket prices for concerts in general. But in a phone interview in early July in Europe, Ozzy admitted he was puzzled when Sharon floated the idea.

“I was like, ‘Sharon, what the (bleep) are you talking about?’ ” Osbourne said, injecting his favorite four-letter word for emphasis. “I said, ‘You’re smoking my (bleeping) weed, aren’t you?’ She goes, ‘No, the only way I can put the brakes on these (bleepers) is to (make Ozzfest free).’ What happens is this: Every time we do Ozzfest, somebody wants another (bleeping) 30 grand or 50, or more than they got the last year. So what happens is, it comes out of the price of the ticket.”

Whatever the reason, fans snapped up 428,000 tickets in four days, and Ozzfest claimed sellouts of every venue. (Additional tickets for remaining Ozzfest shows were released July 18, and more information is available at and Live

So Ozzfest lives on for another summer, with Ozzy sharing something he hasn’t had in six years — material from a new studio album (“Black Rain”). But he’s being cautious about playing new music as the festival headliner.

“It’s kind of difficult, because when you do a new album, put a new album out, it takes a while for it to get ingrained into the fans’ heads,” Osbourne said. “So I’ll do ‘I’m Not Going Away,’ ’I Don’t Wanna Stop’ and one of the ballads, I can’t remember which one. What I’ve been playing in Europe is a combination of (songs from) a few different eras.”

The crowd shouldn’t have a problem with “I Don’t Wanna Stop.” That single has been No. 1 on Billboard’s modern mainstream rock chart for the last month.

But Osbourne has a soft spot for the old stuff, going all the way back to Black Sabbath days.

Black Sabbath produced eight albums and songs such as “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” before a nasty split in 1979. Osbourne became a megamillion seller as a solo act, while Black Sabbath carried on with several different lead singers but without Osbourne’s success.

In 1996 guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Terry “Geezer” Butler joined Osbourne for a part of his first Ozzfest tour set and drummer Bill Ward started playing with them again the next year. The quartet has since played some high-profile tours like three Ozzfests and got elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. But it has not done any new recordings.