DALLAS — Ozzy crooned, mooned and squirted his water guns, Disturbed bellowed, and Marilyn Manson vamped it up, but Ozzfest has always been just as much about the lesser-known acts, and Sunday’s show was no exception.
Though bands like Kilgore, Pushmonkey and the perhaps aptly named No One have proven that Ozzfest exposure alone won’t make you famous, second-stage alumni System of a Down and Slipknot can attest that it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Killswitch Engage’s potential spot in the Slipknot category seemed all but assured even before they appeared at Dallas’ Smirnoff Music Centre. Even though it was only the second show on the tour, the band had sold nearly all of the T-shirts it brought for the entire trek. And it was still early in the day — following sets by Memento, Grade 8, Depswa, Motograter, Sworn Enemy and ex-Far guitarist Shaun Lopez’s metal-meets-Britpop band Revolution Smile — when the crowd began feverishly chanting “Killswitch! Killswitch!”
“Let’s make a f—ing memory today,” vocalist Howard Jones proclaimed as the band ripped into its set, opening with “Numbered Days.” “It means the world to us to see this many people here to see us at 12:30,” Jones said later, beaming, before the band closed with the melodic-leaning “Serenade.”
Shadows Fall were up next, and though the crowd’s enthusiasm had slightly cooled, the Boston thrashers ignited a circle pit with “Stepping Outside the Circle,” peppering their performance with twin guitar harmonies to rival their recent U.K. stage mates Iron Maiden.
Next up, Voivod drummer Away stepped off his tour bus to catch a few songs from the group who shares a name with his band’s album Nothingface. Unloco and Endo rocked the Hot Topic-sponsored stage before Away joined his bandmates for an athletic jaunt through material stretching back to 1984′s War and Pain.
If Jason Newsted sustained any injuries during the faux wrestling match Zakk Wylde prodded him into the day before, he wasn’t showing it onstage. As Newsted pumped tons of energy into the seasoned Canadians’ songs, audience members divided their time between cheering him on and dropping their jaws at Piggy’s sci-fi chord bending and BMX-looking custom guitar. Newsted got his own “Voivod” chant going before leaving the stage as crew members began removing road cases still stenciled with his former band’s familiar logo.
The chant died down quickly, however, as the second-stage crowd began uttering its next catchphrase — “Cradle! Cradle!” — in rabid anticipation of the U.K. black metal band. As their symphonic opening music whipped fans into a frenzy, members of Cradle of Filth filed onto the stage decked to the nines in black leather, defying the blisteringly hot weather. Only drummer Adrian Erlandsson had learned his lesson from the day before, opting to perform wearing only shorts, sneakers and, of course, the requisite corpselike makeup.
Despite the heat, Cradle brutalized their sun-soaked devotees with a lean and economical sampling of their decade-long career, airing proven live favorites like “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids” and “The Forest Whispers My Name” complete with singer Dani Davey’s growls, shrieks and whispers and the operatic backing of Sarah Jezebel Deva.
Afterward, and with noticeably less epic fanfare, Chevelle kicked off the proceedings on the main stage, visibly enjoying the opportunity to perform on one of the summer’s only consistently profitable tours. The inclusion of their rock radio hit “Send the Pain Below” generated the loudest response.
The response that greeted Marilyn Manson, however, easily eclipsed Chevelle’s. Sporting a streak of blue makeup across his face and flanked by his bleached blond bandmates, Manson opened with “This Is the New Sh–,” and true to his word, even older songs like “The Dope Show” sounded reinvigorated, thanks largely to pouting bassist Tim Skold — who switched to an upright bass for “The Golden Age of Grotesque” — and skillful-as-ever guitarist John 5. While the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” is still a crowd pleaser, “mOBSCENE” garnered the loudest sing-along as two dancing girls (private parts covered by latex prosthetic versions of, well, private parts) cavorted onstage.
The invite Disturbed extended to two Texan brothers certainly did not go unappreciated, either, when Pantera’s “Dimebag” Darrell and Vinnie Paul (along with members of Drowning Pool) joined them for a version of “Walk.” But even the surprise collaboration was eclipsed by Disturbed’s own songs from this year’s Believe and their Sickness debut.
Jonathan Davis next led Korn through a potent and solid performance, aided by trippy visuals on the giant screen behind them. In addition to tried and true crowd favorites like “A.D.I.D.A.S.” and “Got the Life,” the band also used the setting to unleash a stripped-down, grooving new track called “Did My Time,” which will appear on the band’s forthcoming album in the fall as well as in the “Tomb Raider” sequel “Cradle of Life,” though not on the soundtrack itself.
Some fans filed out after Korn did, but the house was still packed by the time Ozzy emerged to the air-raid sirens of “War Pigs.” Ozzy is well known for mooning the audience members, dumping buckets of water on them and spraying them with high-powered water guns, but this year the old dog brought along a few new tricks — including a new bassist and new Korn-like braids in his hair. “Mr. Crowley,” “Believer,” “Flying High Again,” “I Don’t Know” and “Goodbye to Romance” were dealt out with swift precision and, like Manson, with new urgency, as double-duty-pulling Newsted now joins ex-Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin to complete Ozzy’s bottom end.
Zakk Wylde pointed his guitar’s headstock skyward throughout the night. A few times Ozzy would shoot him a look as if to say, “C’mon man, I love you, but end the solo already,” as Wylde played with reckless abandon. It was an endurance-testing set for all four men, but all of them proved up to the task.
At the end of a long day that had seen fans chanting for Killswitch, Voivod and Cradle and roaring their approval of main-stage platinum acts, happy Ozzfest attendees could still be heard screaming only one name: “Ozzy!”