Ozzy Osbourne is irritated that people keep assuming he's retiring. Yes, he's just embarked on his "No More Tours" tour, which brings him to Camden's BB&T Pavilion on Wednesday. But the 69-year-old heavy metal pioneer has no plans to actually stop performing; he just won't be doing quite so much of it in one go.
"What I'm stopping is doing what I'm doing now, going around the world all the time," Osbourne said over the phone last month during a tour stop in Allentown. "I wish people would understand I'm not retiring. Is it my bad English accent? It's called the 'No More Tours' tour. It doesn't say 'No more tours ever.' "
Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that this is Osbourne's second No More Tours tour. (Both are named for his 1991 album and song "No More Tears.") The first took place in 1992, after the singer was incorrectly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Three years later, and with an improved prognosis, he was back on stage with his Retirement Sucks tour.
This time around, after five decades on the road and with his 70th birthday looming, Osbourne simply acknowledges that it may be time to slow down a bit. "I've got grandchildren that I want to spend time with. I never spent that much time with my own kids. But I don't punch a card every morning. This is not my job; it's my passion. It's been the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life."
Some of the time Osbourne has managed to spend with his kids has famously been broadcast to audiences around the world. One of the strangest twists to his improbable story is that the demonic, excess-indulging heavy metal maniac once known as the Prince of Darkness was transformed, through the MTV reality show The Osbournes, into a lovable, bumbling (if irrepressibly profane) TV dad.
Osbourne doesn't see any contradiction in his changed image. "I'm just a zany ham," he says. (His love of language hasn't lessened in his twilight years; just assume every noun in this interview is preceded by an F-bomb.) "People tell me I sold out, that it's not heavy metal, it's not cool. I don't agree. It's all entertainment. You got to be mad if you turn down that kind of dough."
Partly due to that unexpected fame, Osbourne continues to pack arenas with several generations of fans. "I've gotten older but the audience seems to have stayed the same," he laughs. "I see fathers and sons and grandsons. I got a thank-you card about three days ago from a 70-something-year-old woman saying, 'You might not believe me but I love going to your concerts with my son.' It makes you feel weird. I've replaced Bing Crosby and all them, I have."
This time around, Osbourne will at least get the chance to make some new memories — an opportunity that has often been eclipsed by his notorious struggles with drug and alcohol abuse. "I'm having more fun now," he insists. "I don't do drugs anymore, I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke dope, and I don't smoke tobacco anymore. I'm having a blast doing it straight because I was doing it drunk for years."
One change Osbourne does lament from his half-century of touring is the loss of venues in cities across America. He has particularly fond memories of the bygone Philly venue where he played regularly for decades. "I did many a good show at the Spectrum," he recalls. "Packed out, that was; great for gigs. I miss it. The Cavern, where the Beatles used to play in Liverpool, is still there. The thing about America, which is crazy, is they just pull historic things down."
In 2017, Osbourne did say a final farewell with the band that started his career and that helped lay the foundation for heavy metal, as he reunited for a final run with Black Sabbath. "I didn't have a great time," he admits. "I spent nine or 10 years in Sabbath, but I'd been away from them for over 30 years. With them, I'm just a singer. With me, I get to do what I want to do. I was getting bad vibes from them for being Ozzy. I don't know, what the f- else can I be?"
Ozzy Osbourne: No More Tours 2
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m., BB&T Pavilion, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden