Ozzfest at the Tweeter Center


June 11, 2001

By Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic



The distinction might be missed by everyone but true aficionados--the few, the proud, the metalheads--but there's a subtle yet significant difference between heavy and loud.

The majority of the acts that took the main stage Friday at the Tweeter Center for the sixth annual Ozzfest were loud--pointlessly, insignificantly, annoyingly loud. Headliners Black Sabbath were the only attraction that deserved to be called heavy, and the veteran rockers delivered a disappointingly short set that held few surprises and came nowhere near their legendary best.

Blame Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's spouse and the originator of this daylong celebration of testosterone. Over the last few years, she has steered the male Lilith Fair away from genuinely heavy metal toward mainstream corporate rock, especially the flavor of the moment, so-called "rap-rock" or "nu-metal."

Sabbath has about as much to do with this nu-fangled stuff as Beverly Sills has to do with Courtney Love. Ozzfest could have been great with acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Monster Magnet, Cradle of Filth and Emperor. Instead, to borrow a phrase from another genre, it was all about the Benjamins.

Of the key performers, it was virtually impossible to tell Papa Roach's angst-ridden bellowing, downtuned guitars and stilted hip-hop grooves from Linkin Park's--especially given the miserably muddy sound. (It was all bass all day, except during Sabbath, when the bottom end suddenly disappeared.)

Gearing up for the release of the new album "Iowa," Slipknot showed a little more imagination and some authentic aggression. But half of the nine members were onstage only for show. Despite having three percussionists, the rhythm was like a knock on the door compared to the piledriver assault of Sepultura or Slayer.

"We're sick and tired of bands saying they're heavy taking the [guts] out of heavy music," one of the costumed Slipknot boys shouted. Ironically, he was describing most of the acts on Ozzfest.

Though Marilyn Manson has lost the title of Antichrist Superstar to Eminem, he was still entertaining as the alternative generation's answer to Alice Cooper.

The former Brian Warner of Canton, Ohio, strutted about the stage in his corset, fondling himself and his shotgun microphone stand and rising up on a hydraulic lift. But the showmanship never took a back seat to the tuneful crunch as his four-piece band gleefully romped through Satanic singalongs like "The Beautiful People," "Disposable Teens" and his exquisitely evil cover of "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This."

Sabbath finally took the stage at 9:50, but it left 50 minutes later after a mere nine songs. The doddering, grandfatherly Ozzy was a typically odd presence, his exhortations to "get crazy" as forced as the shouting of a carnival barker, but the other musicians played with a distinguished and regal crunch.

Unfortunately, with the exception of one decently dark new tune, "Scary Dreams," it was strictly a greatest-hits set, drawn almost entirely from the best-of collection, "We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll."

At the end of the day, that was a pretty apt summation for all of Ozzfest.