Tony Iommi | Opening Ceremony for XXII Commonwealth Games

Guitarist Tony Iommi shares stage with saxophonist Soweto Kinch

On July 28 Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi opened the XXII Commonwealth Games in his hometown of Birmingham, England. Iommi played a song called “Hear My Voice” with alto-saxophonist, MC and BBC presenter Soweto Kinch. The song is designed as a dream sequence and is based on the title track of the 2020 Netflix Original film Trial of the Chicago 7.

Tony Iommi, July 27, 2022. Opening ceremony of the XXII Commonwealth Games. Birmingham, England. Image: Brian May.

Tony Iommi, July 27, 2022. Opening ceremony of the XXII Commonwealth Games. Birmingham, England. Image: Brian May.

It may seem strange for one of the world’s most famous heavy metal guitarists to perform with a saxophonist, but for long-time Black Sabbath fans the collaboration is a natural one. Black Sabbath had in fact started out as kind of a blues cover band / jam band, performing under the moniker Polkia Tulk Blues Band (later shortened to Polka Tulk).

The early incarnation of the band, later to become Earth and then Black Sabbath, featured saxophonist, Alan “Aker” Clarke, and slide guitar player Jimmy Phillips. Iommi thought the band had too many members, however, and spent too much time soloing. Iommi wanted to pare the band down to just four members, and he decided the easiest solution was to simply end the band and then start a new band, which is precisely what happened. The band is said to have performed just six gigs as a 6-piece before breaking up and reforrming as the 4-piece band we know today.

Below you will find footage of the Tony Iommi portion of the XXII Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

Fellow guitar legend Brian May, of Queen fame, shared his own footage, recorded backstage. Brian May and Tony Iommi have been lifelong friends and have occasionally worked together. For example, May is featured on two songs from Iommi’s 2000 solo album Iommi, “Goodbye Lament” and “Flame On“. The pair have wanted to work together more extensively for years, but some events have of course delayed the process, such as Iommi’s battle with lymphoma cancer and more recently the woldwide travel slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One idea that has been considered is creating an album from Iommi’s extensive unused riff library, said to number close to 500, and then allowing people to create their own songs using the riff of their choice. It’s not clear how such a project would work, or if it’s even feasible, but hopefully the pair will work together again soon now that the COVID-19 situation is beginning to settle down.

Soweto Kinch for his part was born in London but later moved to Birmingham and has been associated with the city ever since. Kinch further solidified his “Brummie” identity with the release of his second album, A Life in the day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block. The album is now well known for chronicling Birmingham’s rough urban exterior, yet through the lens of jazz experimentalism. You may listen to the entirety of A Life in the day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block below:

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