Sabbra Cadabra and Henry’s Blueshouse review

When you have a hankering for some live music, and someone invites you to attend what is reported as one of the most authentic Black Sabbath tribute bands around, there is only one reply “f*ck it yep let’s go!”.

This evening I was accompanied by a rock chick friend, to review long running Black Sabbath tribute band Sabbra Cadabra (est. 1993).

The gig took place at Henry’s Blueshouse, a free entry night which takes place each Tuesday upstairs of the Bulls Head Brum. We were a little late, so by the time we appeared, pints in hand, the band were already rocking.

The Club Room was packed out and we pushed our way to the back, then slowly manoeuvered nearer the front. The audience were a diverse mix of young and old – word had obviously spread about the authenticity of the band.

My own experience with Sabbath was as a 17 year old lad whilst working as a tape op in Rockfield Recording Studios in 1992. I was more into rave and house music at the time, and the band were booked in to record a new album. Ozzy was not with the band sadly but their recording sessions were still a bit wild. I heard a fair few ‘interesting’ stories on that recording studio sofa, of the band’s US tours, particularly about groupies.

Tony Iommi nicknamed me ‘Space Cadet’, probably due to my lack of interest in the sessions. My love affair with Sabbath only really blossomed in later years when I discovered tracks such as ‘War Pigs’, ‘Planet Caravan’, ‘Hole In The Sky’ and ‘Symptom Of The Universe’ – which has a mid break pop at Led Zeppelin with intricate guitar work and Ozzie’s hippyish soulful vocals.

One story does stick in my mind from working with the band back then, Tony asking me to check out an apparent buzz eminating from one of the huge cab speakers in the studio. Off I trotted and as they all sat in the mixing area shielded by glass, I indicated I couldn’t hear anything, to which Tony replied “get a bit closer to the speaker Nick, there’s definitely some interference”. As i moved my ear closer.. the bastard strummed his electric guitar hard, and full volume. Needless to say I didn’t share their humour and it took a couple of weeks for the tinitus to recede, but oh well, all is forgiven, it was a very long time ago and worse things happen at sea.

At times, it is easy to forget this is a cover band, some of the garbled Ozzy crap brings a smile to your face, the fact he then switches to a bit of northern banter adds even more incoherent humour.

Anyway, back to the gig. Sabbra Cadabra were absolutely wicked, initial songs were a bit lost on me to be honest but not the crowd behind us, who knew every chord.

The support in that room was immense and testament to the legendary sound which is immortalised around the world, aided by the existance of Ozzy Osbourne, and the fact the band are still, more or less, despite the fame and fortune, grounded Brummie lads.

Sabbra’s singer, I think, was Mancunian and we had a chat in the interval. Passionate musicians and all extremely talented with a hugely authentic Sabbath sound. The singer’s gesticulations, and clothing all add to the show. At times, it is easy to forget this is a cover band, some of the garbled Ozzy crap brings a smile to your face, the fact he then switches to a bit of northern banter adds even more incoherent humour.

Towards the end of the gig, the audience were really getting into the mood, more vocal, more applause and probably more pissed – well we were for sure.

Henry’s organiser and former Black Sabbath manager, Jim Simpson, came on stage to encourage an encore, and bloody hell what an encore. War Pigs was just incredible, everything about it, and I challenge anyone to have not been moved by that performance.

If you get chance to see this band, please do so, if you know nothing about Black Sabbath it is still an exciting and very entertaining night out, and if you can’t catch the band, get yourself to Henry’s which is free entry, every Tuesday in the Bull’s Head Club Room.

About Henry’s Blueshouse

The original Henry’s Blueshouse opened in The Crown Hotel in 1968 and ran every Tuesday under the flag Tuesdays is Bluesdays. It was said by Melody Maker to be “the first progressive music venue outside of London”.

Organised by trumpet player and band manager Jim Simpson, originally as a platform for Bakerloo Blues Line, later shortened to Bakerloo, it quickly developed into one of the most important music venues in this city.

American bluesmen and leading British rock and blues attractions featured weekly at the small upstairs room adjacent to New Street Station which was to gain worldwide recognition as the birthplace of one of the most influential rock bands of all time, Black Sabbath. Simpson became their manager and took them from obscurity to a chart topping attraction with the single “Paranoid” and the albums “Black Sabbath” and “Paranoid”.

Henry’s was seen as an important stepping stone to fame by dozens of bands including Status Quo, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy, Robert Plant, Judas Priest, Rory Gallagher & Taste, Thin Lizzy, Chicken Shack and Ten Years After.

American Bluesmen to grace the stage at Henry’s Blueshouse included Arthur Big Boy Crudup, who wrote “That’s Alright Now Mama”, the first Elvis Presley hit, Champion Jack Dupree, Lightnin’ Slim, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Reverend Gary Davis and J.B. Hutto.

Henry’s Blueshouse at The Bulls Head is organised by the venue’s founder, Jim Simpson, in conjunction with Davenports Brewery.

About Sabbra Cadabra

Sabbra Cadabra was established in early 1993 when the tribute band concept was in its infancy.

Wishing to fill the empty space that had been left when the original line-up of Black Sabbath parted ways in the late seventies, the founding members ventured into the void and recreated the sights and sounds of the band that has since inspired so many others.

The rest is history… Sabbra Cadabra honors the original music of Black Sabbath by covering the material with inspired accuracy and devout respect. To complete the experience, the band dons the garb of the day and sets the stage to visually conjure the early years of Black Sabbath.

Sabbra Cadabra carries the audience back in time to experience the closest thing to a Black Sabbath concert ~ somewhere in the seventies.

About The Bulls Head Brum

Originally opened in 1901, The Bull’s Head Brum, is drenched in local history. This listed traditional pub was beautifully refurbished by local brewery Davenports in 2016, to bring out the original Victorian features, whilst simultaneously creating a cool modern vibe.

The pub, which has been known as the City Tavern (1984 – 2016), is only yards from the site of one of Davenports famous original brewery on Bath Row. With a fab menu, featuring sausage and mash, a great range of local beers on tap, cocktails and spirits, the pub has built a loyal following since re-opening and has featured in hit TV series Peaky Blinders.

There’s also a pretty impressive Club Room upstairs. The old billiard room has been transformed into a dining/music venue and has been host to Birmingham’s legendary Henry’s Blueshouse since March 2019.

Words by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham.