My name is Lucifer, please take my hand.

Your ears aren't the only part of your body that can tell you if a concert was good. The morning after taking in Black Sabbath, Pantera and the Deftones at the Continental Airlines Arena, I woke up with a stiff right arm from pumping my fist in the air and making the devil sign for four hours straight. And for at least three days afterward, I was prone to dropping whatever I was doing and yelling, "Sabbath rules!" or busting loose with a random riff on my air guitar.

Yeah, it was that kind of show, one that really captured the quintessence of the heavy metal ethos—i.e., it kicked utter ass. If you're not a metal fan, no biggie; you would've had a better time staying home and listening to jazz or bad modern rock or whatever. But if you, like me, like many, have fond memories of listening to Sabbath as an underage drinker in the woods somewhere, and still get a frisson whenever you hear the foreboding kickdrum of "Iron Man," let me tell you, Sabbath's still got it and they still rule all.

It's been nearly 30 years since Black Sabbath slouched away from Birmingham and, Lucifer knows, not all of them were kind. But despite drug problems, health problems and legal problems, the four original Sabbathians—Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward—proved their unquestioned metal mastery to an arena crammed with adoring fans. Sure, Ozzy isn't quite as lucid as he used to be, as he needed two big-ass teleprompters to remind him of the words to songs he's spent his entire adult life singing. But the poor guy's had to deal with a lot—what with the Devil after his soul, paranoia tormenting his mind and the War Pigs wanting his body. Still, he performed his frontman duties with aplomb, hopping around like a demented frog and sticking his head in a bucket of water at random intervals, presumably to cool off the eight or so brain cells that still work.

The band behind him sounded like they haven't lost a step since 1971's "Master of Reality." And it was great to see Bill Ward behind the drums again after battling serious heart problems, though if I was over 50 and not particularly well-toned, I might have put a shirt on.

No matter. They cranked out all their finest numbers and true fan favorites like "Sweet Leaf," "Children of the Grave," and "Electric Funeral," gratifying an audience that cut across all age, gender and class distinctions. Seated to the left of myself and CitySearch Music Editor and longtime devilchild Lissa Townsend Rodgers was a group of teenagers who, despite their tender years, knew all the words; to the right of us was a pretty straight-looking 40-something couple, the male half of which spent the entire show taking hits off of one of those bowls that looks like a cigarette.

Sabbath crowds can be tardy crowds, though, and a lot of people missed a ripping set by the Deftones. Irresponsible critics lump them in with rap-metal outfits like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine, but not only are the Deftones pure rock—imagine a sleeker, more direct Soundgarden—they leave all those other acts looking like the foolish bitches they are. Despite losing their regular bassist to the disabled list with an injured foot, the Deftones were monkey's-bung tight, and you have my permission to kick in the ‘nads the next person who says they ain't as good as Korn.

Or better yet, sic Phil Anselmo on them. Mr. Anselmo and Pantera were next up, and while all their material kinda sounds the same to me, they make up in personality what they lack in musical variety. Between songs, Anselmo, who's grown his hair out, offered foul-mouthed critiques of his and his genre's detractors and equally foul tributes to the fans that have made Pantera the self-proclaimed "kings of modern metal." (And with Metallica doing covers of Bob Seger songs, for Christ's sake, who can argue with that?) And all I can say about Dimebag Darrell is that I wish I were him.

I've been to all sorts of concerts, even those jazz and bad modern rock shows—I saw that band Lincoln a few months back, and their shoegazing mediocrity pissed me off so much I immediately proposed to my mates that we form a band called John Wilkes Booth and storm the stage—but I've never felt more at home than at a metal show, and this one was like a family reunion. When metal's bad, yeah, it's pretty heinous, but when it's good—and Sabbath is the best—metal frees you from feeling like you need to act all cool and detached and lets you feel absolutely fucking fantastic about yelling, screaming, pumping your fist in the air and making the devil sign. (Try doing that at a Billy Joel concert and see how soon uptight yuppie scum calls for the security.) Good metal puts you back in touch with your D&D-playing, detention-getting, Genesee Cream Ale-drinking self, harking back to a time when a lot of things sucked, but some things were so much more fun than they are now. There are a lot of effete assholes that will look down upon you for liking Black Sabbath, snidely intimating that you're some kinda oaf because you don't like emo/twee/spoken word, but pay them no heed. They just pretend they like that stuff ‘cause they think it'll get them laid, and they'll never know the joys of joining 18,000 of your people in singing "War Pigs" along with Ozzy. As Mr. Anselmo so eloquently put it, "Anyone who doesn't love Black Sabbath is a big fat pussy, a skanky one."

Truer words were never spoken.

CitySearch Music