All photography and content © John Raptis Photography 2020

Black Sabbath Live @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia

Generals Gathered In Their Masses…

It’s hard to put into words what shooting this gig meant to me. But I’ll try. I’ll try real hard to comprehend all that unfolded before me and the honour, pride, raw emotion and sheer disbelief I felt standing a foot away from Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne… Black Sabbath!

When the Australian gigs were announced many months ago, that little spark in the heart kicked into gear and I was left wondering, “ooh, I wonder if I’ll get a chance to photograph that one?”

When it comes to the big boys, the acts that play arenas and stadiums and not dingy little Melbourne dives, it becomes that much harder to get accreditation and access. It’s not for lack of trying though and I was going to have to move heaven and earth if I was to get a pass for Black Sabbath.

As the dates for the Melbourne shows crept closer and closer, all avenues to get the pass had been pretty much exhausted. It got to the point where I was going to try to get access to one of the Sydney shows. I was totally prepared to wear all costs involved in flights and accommodation… I just had to shoot this show. When that fell through, I had resigned myself to the fact that it just wasn’t going to happen. That’s how it goes. I moved on and put that little dream back in the shelf. And then… out of the blue I get the call from the head-honcho of HEAVY magazine that it was done. I was to be photographing the first of the Melbourne shows. I think for the rest of the night after that phone call I was floating in the stratosphere. I felt euphoric and on such an incredible high. It was going to happen. I was going to photograph Black Sabbath.

The day, at long last, finally arrived. It had been a very busy time with shoots at the Blue Oyster Cult gig on the Wednesday and Otep on Friday. A TOOL shoot had been scheduled for the Saturday which didn’t eventually happen so I just hit that particular gig as a punter, and Black Sabbath on the Monday.

I must admit I was feeling a little worn out but by the time early Monday eve had rolled around… I was ready. Braving the Melbourne traffic I made it to Rod Laver Arena in time to meet the media contact. There were several photographers present. Most I knew on a first name basis so the usual photog chinwag happened in earnest. After passing on our media releases to our contact in exchange for the Sabbath photo-pass, we were escorted into the venue in time for openers Shihad.

It’s good to shoot the opening band as well as it gives you a feel for the venue and the conditions that would be on offer. Especially this night as there was a video crew taking up most of the photo pit. There were cameras on stage right and left and a mobile video dolly through the centre of the pit in constant motion from left to right. So you had to be fully aware that it would be in constant motion and to stay well clear out of its way.

It was a difficult night and the pit was awfully crowded but I acclimatised myself to the mechanics of it all during Shihad’s set so by the time Sabbath took hold, I’d be ready. It was at this point that the road manager decided to cut back our access to only two songs rather than the standard three but seeing as Sabbath tracks are reasonably long, this wouldn’t prove to be too much of a problem.

After Shihad’s set, we were led back outside the arena and waited for the call again. Once outside again, the team of photographers, (approximately 10 of us) traded barbs and war stories as we waited to be led back in.

The time had arrived. Walking through the hallways of Rod Laver Arena always sends a chill up the spine. You can feel your heart begin to beat that little bit faster and a slow shot of adrenaline begins to creep from the base of your skull and down the length of your back. Once on the floor of the arena, you can feel the atmosphere of the crowd permeate your skin and combined with the aforementioned adrenaline overload, it feels like you are going into battle.

Standing in front of the drawn curtain, you can see a dark silhouette of Ozzy Osbourne standing before the microphone in a Jesus Christ pose. The curtain parts way, the stage lights are on and there it is… this thing called Black Sabbath is a mere couple of metres away from you. Game on.

Instinct takes over now and you’re here to do what you’ve done so many times before. Photographers left, right and centre all jostling for position but with respect and an understanding of each other’s space. You break out into a cool sweat as the levels of concentration are at an all-time high. Incredible volume and power is pouring off the stage from one of the greatest bands ever to stomp on a concert stage and the energy from the crowd is intense and rapturous.

Seeing Ozzy Osbourne stare directly into your eyes as you are about to frame a shot is just as surreal as it gets. Seeing Tony Iommi’s fingers pluck his guitar and smiling at Ozzy’s antics whilst Geezer Butler slaps his bass silly is just a magic moment. And then it was over. Our two songs were up and we get escorted back outside. Through the halls of Rod Laver we go as one photog up ahead turns and asks me, “How was that Raptis?” I just let out a scream, “FUCKN HELL THAT WAS FUCKN AWESOME!” was the reply that bounced off the walls.

I had just photographed Black Sabbath and I dare you to even begin to try to wipe this permanent grin from my face.

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One thought on “Black Sabbath Live @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia”

  1. Incredible work! Did you photograph them on the current tour? I can’t seem to find those. These are some of the best I have seen of Sabbath.

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