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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus brought her Bangerz tour to London's O2 Arena last night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis