Tuesday 9th May 2023
The Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent
With the ninth leg of their eleven-date Spring tour taking place at Reading's Sub 89 tomorrow night, all girl Black Sabbath covers band, Black Sabbitch, returned to Chislehurst's The Beaverwood in Kent on Tuesday, following their last visit in September. To be honest, this wasn't the first time I had another gig planned in London, but at the last minute decided to go local instead. By the end of tonight, this also wasn't the first time that I knew I had made the right decision!
Despite not being a mega Sabbath fan, I was there sitting in the sixth row with my ears bleeding at Kilburn's Gaumont State, when they kicked off their UK Sabotage tour in November 1975, and I was also there at the 'End' at London's sold out O2 Arena in January 2017, as Ozzy, Iommi and Geezer went out with a bang. Also sandwich in between Hyde Park's British Summer Time in July 2014, plus headlining the 'Lemmy Stage' in the mud at Download in June 2016 (that's another story), although unlike my fellow WRC compadres tonight, I was unacceptably AWOL during their Ronnie James Dio years.
Originally formed over ten years ago by drummer Angie Scarpa and bassist Melanie Makaiwi, it is indeed one of life's ironies that tonight, this Los Angeles quartet, also comprising vocalist Alice Austin and guitarist Emily Burton, are paying tribute to these Black Country legends in our own backyard in the garden of England. And so very thankful were the gathered masses at this very popular venue tonight, as they aptly went straight for the jugular, with the air raid siren at full tilt, for the opening classic, 'War Pigs', followed by 'Fairies Wear Boots', with Austin's vocals immediately on the money. Next up was 'Wicked World' from their eponymous 1970 album, after which the very amusing Angie interjected with her story about her drum teacher Barry, giving time for both Melanie and Emily to change their guitars for 'Wheels Of Confusion', that saw for the first time Alice flexing her pinkies on keys.
Mobile phones were out in abundance for the storming 'Snowblind', from 1972's 'Volume 4', a song that I recall Ozzy poignantly dedicating to former keyboard player Geoff Nichols who died during the 'End' tour. Scarpa then continued her stand-up routine with another story about their recent London Underworld leg of their tour, where a fan confided that he disliked one of the songs on their setlist. Cue the offending and quirky 'Changes', as Burton left the stage, with both Alice and Angie sharing the keyboard alongside the ever-smiling Melanie on bass. Scarpa's hilarious merchandise promo preceded the end of the first set, with the band closing out with 'Cornucopia' and finally, the head-banging, 'Children Of The Grave'.
Austin's harmonica on second half opener 'The Wizard', was followed by a neat bass intro/solo by Makaiwi on 'Behind The Wall Of Sleep', a track that Ozzy admitted on the 'End' tour, that they didn't perform very often. Indeed, this reflected the perfect balance of tonight's setlist, such as sacrificing 'Iron Man' for example, in order to delve further into their extensive back catalogue, almost exclusively drawn from the five albums of their 1970-1973 era.
Emily then took centre stage (left) for some classic deep sound riffage with 'NIB'. as the crowd helped out with the "Oh Yeah's", before we were all asked to reciprocate by counting to four on the intro to 'Hole In The Sky', that resulted in the backhanded compliment, "You're much better than Grimsby". Praise indeed.
'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath's, 'A National Acrobat', seemed very apt for this Beaverwood marquee, as the antics continued as Scarpa, an absolute powerhouse of a drummer, with both speed and precision, took her trusty cymbal under her wing, and once again joined Austin on keyboards on the soothing, beautiful, surreal and totally un-Sabbath like, 'Solitude', from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame residents 1971 album, 'Master Of Reality. A blueprint for Stoner/Doom Metal, and another from 'MOR', the powerful and heavy 'Lord Of This World', paved the way for the wonderful and distinctive opening riff to 'Into The Void', before a deviation from the expected set list saw a blistering, but very welcome encore of 'Paranoid'.
The old adage that you don't miss something until its gone, certainly hit home tonight. Not only talented musicians in their own right, but also so passionate about the musical legacy they are playing, Sabbitch undoubtedly put the sass into Sabbath. Make sure you catch them on one of their final three UK tour dates that ends at Lancaster's The Kanteena this Thursday 18th May, Black Sabbitch return to the States for an eight-date tour in June.