“I’m honored”: Tony Iommi walks onstage to play Paranoid at the Black Sabbath ballet – and the entire ensemble bows at his feet

Tony Iommi makes a surprise appearance onstage at the Black Sabbath Ballet in Birmingham, UK
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin / Stringer / Getty Images)

The Black Sabbath Ballet opened on Friday (September 23) at the Hippodrome in the metal legends’ hometown of Birmingham, UK, only for the lucky attendees to be treated to a surprise guest appearance from Tony Iommi.

Iommi joined the ensemble onstage to play guitar for the ballet’s closing performance of Black Sabbath classic Paranoid, performing in front of a star-studded first night crowd that included the likes of fellow local heroes Robert Plant and ELO/one-time Sabbath drummer Bev Bevan.

Robert Plant, Tony Iommi and Bev Bevan makes a surprise appearance onstage at the Black Sabbath Ballet in Birmingham, UK

Robert Plant, Tony Iommi and Bev Bevan at the Black Sabbath Ballet’s opening night in Birmingham, UK (Image credit: Katja Ogrin / Stringer / Getty Images)

Of course, Iommi’s role as a pioneering force of metal guitar playing has seen him honored with all manner of trinkets and plaques: from having a fossil named after him, to signature Gibson guitars, platinum records and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

However, when it comes to physical expression it’s hard to rival the medium of dance, and fan footage of the ballet’s first night shows a touching moment of tribute from the ensemble. 

Watch the clip above and you’ll see the guitarist take to the stage with the group of 30 or so performers clapping him on. As the (notoriously humble) metal icon walks through the ensemble, they part at the middle and bow to his feet as he passes, thumping the floor in applause, in the process.

The remarkable achievement that has seen the music invented by Iommi and Sabbath in the city’s darkest corners being performed in its most celebrated and high-brow cultural spaces will not have been lost on Iommi. 

“I’d never have believed it,” Iommi told The Guardian earlier this month, when asked how he would have responded to the suggestion of a ballet at the outset of his career. “Especially remembering how we were looked on when we first started: no one wanted to know.”

The show has been created by Birmingham Royal Ballet director and renowned dancer Carlos Acosta. Like Iommi, the director is a working class icon himself – albeit one that hailed from the tropical climes of Cuba, as opposed to the smokestacks of Britain’s post-war industrial landscape.

“I’m working class – I am Black Sabbath,” Costa told The Guardian. “I’m trying to do the same things Black Sabbath achieved. The essence is the same. I understand why the music means so much to the fans, and why they crave it and how relevant they are.”

After the show, Iommi wrote on Instagram that he was “honoured to be involved with these talented dancers”. 

Hopefully we’ll have some complete footage of the track to come, but in the meantime you can check out the fan-shot clips of Iommi’s guest appearance above.

And, if you fancy revisiting the ’Sabbath guitarist’s journey in the company of an equally revolutionary player, check out the time Tony Iommi and Eddie Van Halen discussed the highs and lows of their careers and their evolution as guitarists.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.