So you want to know how Ozzy’s holding up? He maintained good pogo energy during his July 8 Ozzfest show out at the Devore Perpetually Renamed Pavilion, even if the old haunted howl sounded strained. But his set was flat, partly because new bassist Blasko hadn’t locked into the rhythm, partly because the band played nothing less than 15 years old. Odd: The most electric moments were evil versions of Black Sabbath warhorses — the sludge-riffing “Symptom of the Universe” and a geared-down “Paranoid,” which hasn’t bled this raw in decades.

Zakk Wylde’s guitar raged with Ozzy, but in his preceding Black Label Society set he just ripped holes in the sky, each solo gushing more controlled dementia than the last. Brewtality indeed.

Best of the early bands was Atlanta’s Norma Jean. Dissonant yet sloshily sexual, they shook the audience by the neck till they screamed. Kudos to Norma’s leaping blond bassman, who was the only dude all day with the balls to wear white.

Attendance was down and energy lower from previous fests, even though there was a breeze for a change. (I saw only one guy carried off on a stretcher.) Guesses why: 1) The bill had no Priest, Maiden or Manson to prop it up. 2) Word had spread about the Pavilion’s sub-bestial treatment of its customers, especially not allowing them to bring in the bottle of water that might save them from heat stroke. But hey, if you haven’t collapsed already you can always stand in line to buy it — down this year from $5 to $3.50!

Without Steuart Liebig, whose 50th birthday arrives this week, the local physique of that music we call “new” would be missing a vital feature. I’m thinking the nose.

First, Liebig’s own promontory is long, elegantly arched and well designed for the way he gazes along it to gain perspective. It also recalls his electric-bass plucking, which prods his many ensembles with inquisitive rhythm and invention; his compositions, which poke into obscure corners of mathematical neoclassicism and bubbling Delta funk; and his harmonies, whose complex European aromas require a sensitive receptor for proper blending.

Liebig’s celebration will be both extravagant and cheap. Extravagant because he’s programmed ambitious works — two knotty blowouts from his outrageous 2001 Cryptogramophone CD, Pomegranate (plus a keyboard concerto for Wayne Peet), in the first set, and two moody, floating new compositions of true excellence realized by Jeff Gauthier’s Grand Goatette in the second. Cheap because, though the scores require the highest instrumental skill and boundless improvisational chutzpah, many of Liebig’s closest friends possess those qualities and won’t be soaking him for union scale. They include Alex Cline, Ellen Burr, Andrew Pask, Jeff Kaiser, Michael Vlatkovich, Nels Cline, Vinny Golia, David Witham, Joel Hamilton, Keve Wilson and Sara Schoenbeck.

It’s also cheap for the listener: 10 bucks in a comfortable Salvadoran restaurant with simple food and a full bar.?

Cryptonight presents Steuart Liebig Concerto Night at Club Tropical, Thurs., July 27, 8 p.m.

LA Weekly