Ozzy gives fans plenty to chew on

REVIEW: The brevity and lack of an opener really bit, but the new band and old tunes lifted Wednesday's Target Center gig.

Ozzy Osbourne finally returned to Minneapolis on Wednesday -- a month late, and an opener short.

Rock's king of metal, prince of darkness, biter of bats, etc., postponed his Target Center show last month due to an ear infection. Minneapolis thus became the first date on the second leg of his "Scream" tour.

However, the previously advertised opener Rob Halford could not make the makeup date, nor could leg-two guy Slash, for whatever (lame) reasons. Thus, attendance was almost half of Ozzy's Halloween 2007 gig with Rob Zombie. The 6,000 fans who did show went into Wednesday's concert with a chip on their shoulder and venom in their vigor. Which, of course, is what makes metal fans metal fans.

The Ozzman -- yes, he's still alive, and actually only 62 -- didn't really offer anything in the way of consolation, but it didn't seem to matter. The 100-minute set was actually a few songs shorter than in a lot of other cities. The fans still ate up every minute and every bleeping word of it.

It helped that his current tour is not just another sleeper-car trip on the "Crazy Train." He is breaking in a new band, following his controversial decision to can longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde.

On Wednesday, the new guys -- with bassist Blasko the only holdover -- certainly played their part, which includes dutifully filling in for about 15 minutes mid-show so Ozzy can rest. Foremost among them was guitarist Gus G., a young hotshot from Greece born Kostas Karamitroudis (presumably too hard for Ozzy to pronounce).

Mr. G. came off a little flashy but certainly was proficient. He was especially adept at playing the late Randy Rhoads' most rapid-fire licks. He was also very good at finding the wind fan on stage before every solo so it could dramatically blow his long hair around, Fabio-style.

Some of the Sabbath tunes lacked the grungier wickedness Tony Iommi brought to them, but they were nonetheless great to hear again, especially "Faeries Wear Boots" early in the set and "Rat Salad" mid-show. Alas, Ozzy left out "N.I.B." and "Into the Void," which have been played in other cities, but the usual favorites "War Pigs," "Iron Man" and (the finale) "Paranoid" still made it a thankfully Sabbath-ized set. As for Ozzy himself, he barely passes the test on hitting the right notes nowadays but maintains his lovable stage presence. His only real moment of freshness came in the standard pre-show movie in which he hilariously injects himself into the latest famous scenes.

This time around, the bits included part of the "Twilight" saga, "The Hangover," a Lady Gaga video and, best of all, "The Jersey Shore," where he and Snooki traded crude insults. A real warm-up act would've been better, but it was still a good start.

See Ozzy's full set list at startribune.com/artcetera

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658

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