As always, this year’s edition of that traveling musical money-maker known as OzzFest presented a wide variety of heavy metal styles on multiple stages around this expansive desert venue. And just like last year, the obvious weakest link was the grizzled headliner, Ozzy Osbourne.
Ozzy again surrounded himself with a terrific band — which included former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and Faith No More alum Mike Bordin on drums — but the man has been reduced to an embarrassment as a vocalist, and his stage moves, such as they were, elicited nearly as many laughs as cheers.
Listless Osbourne offered a hits-filled set list of solo and Black Sabbath favorites (“War Pigs,” “Suicide Solution,” “Sweet Leaf,” etc.), but his poor physical condition (his trademark bunny-hop barely leaves the stage floor), his inability to recall his very simple lyrics and the hoarse vocals he now delivers all point toward retirement as his only sensible next move.
The frantic funk-metal-hip-hop hybrid offered by Bakersfield’s Korn was a clear crowd favorite, though this band’s bombastic shtick is also wearing a bit thin these days.
Front man Jonathan Davis offset his menacing and intense persona by delivering a rousing bagpipes performance as intro to the nightmarish nursery rhymes tale “Shoots & Ladders,” which was followed by a surprise run at the Metallica anti-war song “One.”
Drama fiend Marilyn Manson and his band of zombies, ghouls and go-go dancers provided the most entertaining turn of the day, though not much positive can be said about his band’s musical style, a disturbing mix of military-inspired theater and heavy Goth rock.
Front man Manson screamed and mugged and spit at the audience, yet his smug approach left behind little more than a bitter after-taste.
Disturbed delivered the best straight-ahead heavy metal sound of the day, a modern update of the classic Black Sabbath sound that was brimming with forceful and concise stops and starts. A thunderous bottom-end helped carry tunes including radio hit “Sickness” up to the expansive lawn area, where small fires were otherwise the predictable order of the day.
The three siblings in Chicago band Chevelle opened the main stage performances at 5 p.m., and the group’s tight, emo-informed delivery was actually the most impressive of the day, especially considering most of the crowd was not yet familiar with the band. Just a touch of Nirvana influence could be heard in the promising band’s strong style.