Godsmack concert review (special guest Breaking Benjamin) – Cleveland, OH – Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica – September 22, 2015
Godsmack made their way to Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica on a beautiful fall evening. While this writer hardly classifies Godsmack as a favorite, somehow, I’ve made it to eight shows (thanks in part to the band playing every touring festival known to man). Godsmack also accounts for two of my favorite shows, one being a taping of an MTV episode at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum back in 2001, the other an intimate acoustic show at the Akron Civic Theatre in 2004.
Godsmack came out swinging in 1998 when their self-titled debut sold more than four million copies behind the strength of the singles “Keep Away” “Voodoo,” “Whatever,” and “Bad Religion.” Frontman Sully Erna, bassist Robbie Merrill, and lead guitarist Tony Rombola were all in tow before the release of the first record, while current drummer Shannon Larkin entered the band in 2002.
Unfortunately, with a 4x platinum debut, there is only one direction to go: down. 2000’s ‘Awake,’ the band’s sophomore effort, sold half the number of copies than their debut, with each of the next four records taking a dip in sales as well. But to say the band regressed musically or in popularity is unfair. After all, there is no shame in a gold record. And, to be fair, album sales across the board aren’t what they used to be. The reaction of the 3,000+ fans in attendance showed that their new music is revered almost as much as Godsmack’s early classics.
The show got off to an awkward start with a marginally (at best) entertaining video showing two girls sneaking backstage and evading buffoon security guards for ten minutes before finally achieving their mission of meeting the band. The band entered the stage to Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Off to Boston.” Strikes one and two in the books and Godsmack had yet to play a note. Fortunately, during the band’s 15 song set, strike three never came.
On tour in support their 2014 release, ‘1000hp,’ Godsmack opened the show with back to back songs off the album, “Generation Day” and the title track. A consecutive trio of hits, “Cryin’ Like a Bitch,” “Straight Out of Line,” and “Awake” also made their way into the setlist in the first half of the show.
After performing “Whatever,” Erna disappeared momentarily before two doors located slightly behind Larkin’s drum kit opened, and Sully slowly wheeled out center stage to line up next to Larkin’s kit and a drum-off ensued. While not exactly Danny Carey and Carter Beauford, the two more closely resembled that duo than say…Patrick Carney and Meg White.
After the 10-minute drum battle, Erna remained behind the kit as Larkin stepped up to the mic for a cover of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” An Alice Cooper cover (“School’s Out”) preceded “I Stand Alone,” the closing number for the night.
Opening act Breaking Benjamin put on an impressive 50-minute set. Having seen this band approximately ten times (eight of them on accident), I was pleasantly surprised that Ben Burnley and his retooled lineup sucked far less than I remember. I dare say they didn’t suck at all. Burnley was my first nationally touring act to grant me an interview back in 2004, and he’s come a long way since. With a six-year gap between 2009’s ‘Dear Agony’ and their current album, ‘Dark Before Dawn,’ Burnley seems re-energized. Opening the show with their 2004 hit, “So Cold,” and closing with their biggest hit to date, “Diary of Jane,” Breaking Benjamin sandwiched “Polyamorous” and “I Will Not Bow” during their thirteen song set. An oddly awesome moment came mid-set when the guys played a cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” after a lead-in of a lightsaber bearing Burnley as the band played “Imperial March.” Burnley managed several variations of words of gratitude towards the fans (all of which contained F-bombs). And, for anyone wondering, he can still pull off his trademarked lion like growls. BB returns to the area for a co-headlining gig with Shinedown on November 7 at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown.