ROOKIE REVIEW: An Audience with Tony Iommi

Rookie Reviewer, Tobias Welby was lucky enough to spend the evening in the presence of Brummie rock legend Tony Iommi. See what he thought of the experience…
Imagine a man in a pub, sitting alone. You see the man, but you don’t interpret the fact he is alone as an act of loneliness, but you sense an aura of contentment about him. As you drink a few more pints and Dutch courage takes over, you talk to this man. He actually turns out to be the guitarist of the world famous rock band, Black Sabbath. This was the perfect environment I could imagine meeting Birmingham legend, Tony Iommi, after listening to him talk at The Town Hall, Birmingham.

Prior to this event, I had an image of what this night might be in my head: it may have been slightly romanticised, but I imagined Tony’s stark outline skulking from the wings, as a cold breeze flushes the room and thick fog rises mysteriously from the ground. It turned out Tony was not the harbinger of the devil and this perception wasn’t quite correct. He was actually welcomed onto stage by sports presenter, Gary Newbon, with a list of character and musical commendations from Brian May (Queen), James Hetfield (Metallica) and Randy Blythe (Lamb of God).

The conversation between Gary and Tony started out by addressing the sombre topic of Tony’s fight with cancer, since he was diagnosed in 2012. The question was answered head-on by Tony, in a laid back demeanour, about how this battle affected the creation of their last album ‘13’ and their current world touring patterns. The frankness of this question gave the impression this was not going to be a ‘run of the mill’ Q and A session. The first half of the night consisted of a set of questions written by Gary, detailing Tony’s past, and tactfully leading him into talking about some of the debaucheries carried out by Black Sabbath. Stories of fireworks in hotels, almost killing their drummer by spray painting him gold, people being shot in bar fights and the line “I’m going home now, if you wanna’ set me on fire” were included. As extreme as these stories may have been, they were down played down by Tony’s nonchalant attitude that made these stories seem like they were everyday activities. The stories caused uproar of laughter amongst an audience that obviously had a lot of love for Tony and what he achieved in his life.

The second part of the night was an open forum between the audience and Tony, with questions being posed from the audience via question slips given to us when entering The Town Hall. The audience questions spanned from “how does it feel to start a genre?”, “the best prank played on him?” and “what should we call out next child?” My personal favourite of the night was, “if you could play with anybody artist, dead or alive, who would it be?” Tony responded with the surprising answer of, Frank Sinatra, however he was unsure how well their music would mesh. There was even a question posed from Birmingham football legend, Trevor Francis, who asked “who is better at football – Tony or Ozzy?” The question went unanswered as Tony believed they were both better at stealing footballs than playing it. The three best questions of the night, as chosen by Gary, won a Black Sabbath DVD signed by Tony. The second half came to an end with a philanthropic Tony awarding two cheques to his two favourite charities – The Wythall Animal Sanctuary and Macmillian Cancer Nurses.

In the end, I felt this night only scraped the surface of all what Tony Iommi had experienced, and it really left me wanting to spend a day in his shoes. As a man who has rubbed shoulders with people as influential as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, I was astounded by how humble and down to earth a person he was. This only reinforced my admiration for him, as I got the sense he is not one to be bogged down in the fame or publicity, but has created music as means to an end, for a passion inside him.

Peterborough born and bred, Tobias Welby migrated to Birmingham to study a degree in Sound Engineering and Production at Birmingham City University. His time studying, so far, has given him a new appreciation for what goes into an amazing live performance, as well as a bit of a critical eye should a performance be in some way lacking. Beside his interest in the technical side of performances, he has always had an avid interest in music, and enjoys searching and finding music to further diversify his collection. He has a proclivity towards jazz and rock mostly, but enjoys anything that is loud, intricate or just a bit weird.