Black Sabbath, Download Festival, Castle Donington
Sparks, Bush Hall, London

After some Download downpours the sun came out for a doddery Ozzy and (most of) his band. Cue doom-metal riffs of unmatchable heaviosity

The British summer can be such a disappointment, can't it? Not the mud and the rain, but the lack thereof. I can't imagine anything more fitting, on hearing the reunited Black Sabbath bludgeon slowly through the eponymous opener of their eponymous debut album, than standing in a sludgy Midlands field and hearing Mother Nature replace the sound effects on the record with real-life drizzle and thunder.

By the final day, Download – presumably so named because it invariably pours down loads – has dried up, allowing a jokey "And on the Sabbath day, Ozzy said 'Let There Be Sun'" caption on the big screens. Nevertheless, metal fans – never more than a hair's breadth away from primitivism – have regressed by the time I arrive. The first thing I see is a man with his penis out, urinating on his friends, who are rolling around on the floor laughing.

Everything this festival crowd is into, for better or worse, was invented by Black Sabbath between 1970 and 1977, so they're the ultimate closing act. Ozzy Osbourne's sidekicks, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi, may look like retired musketeers. But the latter, his plastic-coated fingertips (originals lost in an industrial accident) roaming frets marked out with big gothic crosses, can still deliver doom-rock riffs of unmatchable heaviosity: "War Pigs", "Sweet Leaf", "Iron Man" and, above all, "Paranoid".

Ozzy himself is a doddery figure, repeatedly shouting "I can't fucking hear you!" in the same voice he uses to inform Sharon that one of her Pomeranians has crapped on the carpet. But no one could deliver the line "My name is Lucifer, please take my hand" in such a convincing wail.

The only shame is that the reunion is a partial one. "Where the fuck is Bill Ward?" demands a heckler as Ozzy hails some competent young random behind the kit. Where indeed. The genial, strawberry-nosed drummer is absent, claiming he was presented with an "unsignable" contract (a claim refuted by the Sabbath camp). A sad situation, but this is what happens when you don't pay your Bills.

"It feels like being naked," says Russell Mael at the launch of Sparks' Two Hands, One Mouth tour, "so we appreciate your pretending like we're not naked." For the first time in their four-decade history, the Mael brothers are playing a whole show with no backing band, and it's a charming, engaging way to present an underrated body of work. The intention, the singer explains while indicating his elder brother, Ron, is to "show off his lyrics". And rightly so. Most bands, if they'd written even one line like "A rainbow forms, but we're both colour blind", would retire.

If Sparks have been too clever for their own commercial interest, pioneering and discarding new genres (dark cabaret, operatic rock, electro pop), then their hardcore fans only love them for it even more.

Sporting a bit of an emo fringe and smart airline pilot's blazer, Russell stands like a boxer, leading not with a fist but with his left eyebrow, getting ready to whomp that sucker with wit rather than aggression.

Ron Mael, the cult figure within this reluctant cult band, receives deafening chants of "Ron! Ron! Ron!". The unsettlingly impassive pianist responds by getting up for a comical speed-skater dance, while his younger sibling quizzically eyes the synthesisers.

Highlights of a magnificent set include the baroque "Under the Table with Her", the heartbreakingly self-aware "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'?" and, from the days when Sparks were bona-fide pin-ups, "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us". In any sane universe, Sparks are big. It's pop that got small.

Critic's choice

The Isle of Wight Festival dominates the weekend, headlined by Primal Scream, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen, and with The Darkness, Madness and Lana Del Rey among the best of the rest at Seaclose Park, IoW (Thu-Sun). Meanwhile, BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend brings such stars as Jay-Z, Kasabian, Plan B and Rihanna to London's Hackney Marshes (Sat, Sun).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam