It was like Nirvana never happened.
The famed grunge band emerged in the early 1990s and made long-established hard-rock conventions seem quaint, projecting power and rage without the theatrics.
Saturday night in the rain at the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, though, Ozzy Osbourne and Friends rolled the rock ’n’ roll clock back to the ’70s and ’80s, a time when drum solos and guitar solos had yet to be mocked in the movie “This Is Spinal Tap.”
At 67, Osbourne stays in his lane. Efforts to update his sound on recent albums were unconvincing, so he sticks to what he does, whether it makes sense or not.
But it’s apparent that’s what his fans want. A committed, respectable-sized crowd turned out for the familiar show, just as when he last played Voodoo in 2010.
Prankster Ozzy sprays the front rows of his audience with a hose nightly, and he did it again Saturday night to a crowd already damp from the rain.
Musically, he sticks to his biggest songs. This set prominently featured Black Sabbath songs, with Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler as one of the titular friends.
The Sabbath songs started with “Iron Man,” with Butler and guitarists Slash and Tom Morello onstage to augment Osbourne’s band. It was clear watching them that Black Sabbath is part of every hard-rock guitarist’s education, and Morello in particular seemed to enjoy the opportunity.
He struck rock-god guitar poses and played conventional licks you wouldn’t expect from him as well as his signature touches, including a moment when he simulated a DJ scratching on his guitar. During one solo, he played a series of harmonics over and under the guitar neck that in dexterity and showmanship equaled anything Osbourne’s guitarist Gus G. played during his extended solo section.
For Morello, it was his second unlikely visit to New Orleans. On his own, he has performed in the city with the edgier Rage Against the Machine or as a politically progressive folk singer, but he last visited New Orleans as part of Bruce Springsteen’s band when Springsteen played Jazz Fest in 2014.
Those who came to the show mainly for Osbourne’s guests might have felt cheated. Slash appeared on three Black Sabbath songs — “Iron Man,” “N.I.B.” and the encore of “Paranoid.” Morello played those songs as well as Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” and “Bark at the Moon.” The set-ending “Crazy Train” featured Osbourne’s band on its own, as did the first encore, “Mama, I’m Coming Home.”
For his part, Osbourne was what we’ve come to expect. His infirmity is part of his story, and his movement is limited.
He walks leaning forward, but he doesn’t move around more than necessary, holding onto the mic and bouncing instead. As a singer, he hits no more than 80 percent of his notes, but his good-natured persona and classic songs earn him some leeway.
Saturday night, he finished many songs with the sort of “Thank you, God bless” stage patter that typically signals the end of a concert. It was disconcerting at first, but then it became charming — another example of Ozzy being Ozzy.
The question is why so many people endured the rain to see and hear him. Obviously, it’s possible that he’s genuinely that beloved. An Ozzy tattoo on someone’s forearm shown on the big screen video system testified to that.
Perhaps Osbourne is also a reminder of simpler days in rock ’n’ roll, when relevance was less relevant.
His set began and ended with fireworks — old-school production, to be sure, but everybody likes fireworks.