Ozzy Osbourne's initial appearance at the BB&T Pavilion on Wednesday night was not as the legendary Prince of Darkness but as an adorable baby boy. That nearly 70-year-old photo, beamed onto enormous video screens at the back of the stage, quickly went up in flames to be replaced by more familiar images of Ozzys past: a montage of crazily leering eyes and Barnum by way of Lucifer showmanship.
The occasional glimpses of cocaine and news reports of the 1982 plane crash that killed the beloved guitarist Randy Rhoads hinted at the true darkness behind the heavy metal pioneer's infernal madcap, but that was all left behind as Ozzy strode onstage, leading his band in a purple sequined robe. The color scheme matched the bat-winged skull emblazoned on his paunch-hugging black shirt, which gleamed as the band launched ferociously into the werewolf anthem "Bark at the Moon."
Despite the "This Is Your Life" flashbacks, Ozzy was insistent that this was no farewell appearance. "I will be back here," he promised, emphatically quashing the pernicious rumors spread by the name of his own tour – "No More Tours 2." While he marveled a bit at the fact that he's just a few months away from his 70th birthday, the glee that Ozzy felt at goading the audience into louder and louder displays of roaring affection.
"The crazier you go, the longer we'll play," he offered, a fairly low-cost bargain for someone so long rumored to be in league with the devil. Camden's level of lunacy earned them a roughly 100-minute show spanning the classic years of Osbourne's solo career as well as a few favorites from his former band, Black Sabbath. The latter's "War Pigs" turned into a back and forth singalong, though it was solo favorites like "I Don't Know," "Mr. Crowley" and the rarely-performed "No More Tears," which put the most strain on his voice, that earned the loudest reactions.
Ozzy's high spirits and strong voice stood in stark contrast to his last area visit with Sabbath in 2013, when he howled the songs out of time with the music while tethered to a teleprompter feeding him lyrics. He'd recently fallen back off the wagon, so whether his poor performance was due to his demons or simply to his admitted displeasure with reuniting the old band it was a distressing display from such a consummate showman.
Wednesday's show was a roaring return to form, fueled by the typically overdriven guitar pyrotechnics of longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde, back in the fold as he has been on numerous occasions over the last 30 years. A frontman in his own right with his band Black Label Society, the kilt-sporting Wylde had no problem borrowing a bit of the spotlight, as when he headed out into the crowd for a prolonged, up close and personal guitar solo that cycled through riffs from his original stint with Ozzy, including "Miracle Man," "Crazy Babies" and "Perry Mason." Still it was of course Ozzy's antics that kept the crowd on their feet, whether spraying them with a foam hose or dropping to his knees to bow to their adulation.