Clarkston,Michigan(Aug 9,2023)-The summer night air crackled with excitement as rock enthusiasts converged upon the iconic Pine Knob Amphitheatre for an unforgettable evening of raw, hard hitting music. Headlined by hard rock luminaries Godsmack along with co-headlining partners Staind, the lineup promised a nostalgic trip down memory lane of fists-in-the-air, devil’s sign-waving music with a few twists mixed in along the way.
Godsmack and Staind have enjoyed many similarities along with some notable differences during their three decade careers, all of which were demonstrated during Wednesday’s double bill. Both bands hail from New England and their frontmen, Sully Erna for Godsmack and Aaron Lewis of Staind both mine dark emotional sentiments in their lyrics. Staind, however, tends to wallow in the angst while Godsmack creates a kind of exuberant, metallic catharsis from its pain. The end result was a heavy-hitting emotional time warp that was nevertheless crowd-pleasing, heavy on nostalgia and augmented with newer cuts from both bands most recent albums.
Following an opening half-hour from the Beastie Boys’ Mix Master Mike whose high-spirited mash-ups of hard rock, hip-hop and pop even had workers in Pine Knob’s concession stands dancing, Staind kicked things into gear with “Lowest in Me,”the first single from the upcoming album “Confessions of the Fallen,” its first new music in nearly 12 years. The rest of the one-hour fifteen minute, 14-song set dug into the quartet’s platinum discography, filled with rock radio favorites ranging from relatively understated “It’s Been Awhile”and “Outside,” to high octane play-throughs of “Not Again,” “Just Go,” “Fade,” “For You” and “Mudshovel.”
Lewis, impassive as ever, blamed his ADD for his failure to say hello until about halfway through the set. “It’s the thought that counts, right?” he mused before sliding into a solo performance of 2001’s “Epiphany.” The preceding “Something to Remind You” was one of the brighter highlights from the set, performed just by Lewis and guitarist Mike Mushok, whose solos throughout were still as powerful as they were in Staind’s initial heyday. Marked by longer than usual gaps between songs, it was nothing less than a solid, workmanlike performance carried by fan favorite songs and emotion rather than presence.
It stark contrast, that became the provenance and rally of Godsmacks performance. The quartet certainly equaled and more times than not, far exceeded Staind for musical potency but added a different kind of synergy and flash during its one-hour and thirty five minutes on stage. “This band is still an old school (expletive) rock band, so let’s (expletive) party!” Erna announced early on in the 15-song setlist and Godsmack certainly had a multitude of reasons to throw down, celebrating both a new album “Lighting Up the Sky,” released this past February and the belated 25th anniversary celebration of its debut album for Republic/Universal Records, self titled Godsmack.
What a rock and roll party the night turned into, filled with serious pyrotechnics along with fan supported and band initiated hijinks that jettisoned, once again, the stigma that rock and roll is dead. Before “Something Different,” Erna urged women to mount the shoulders of the men who brought them, then took the houselights down and had the 14,000 or so fans light up the venue with their cell phone flashlights. As the night progressed, Godsmack continued to weave a sonic tapestry that spanned their entire career. From the pounding riffs of “Surrender” and haunting melodies of “Awake” to the anthemic chorus of the nights opening cut “When Legends Rise,” every song was a testament to their ability to craft music that strikes a chord with listeners of all generations.
One of the more notable highlights of the night was undoubtedly the performance of “Voodoo,” during which the stage was transformed into a mesmerizing realm of rhythm and mystique. The crowd swayed and sang along in unison, creating an almost spiritual atmosphere that showcased the profound connection between the band and their quarter century of devoted fans.
“Batalla de los tambores,” a signature percussion battle that pitted drummer Shannon Larkin against percussionist Tommy Stewart, was an exhilarating display of skill and showmanship. The duel of beats and rhythms resonated deep within the audience, culminating into a medley of riffs from AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Rush hits before morphing into a cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way,” with Erna replicating the song’s talk box solo.
Godsmack turned “Whatever” into a full-scale 25th anniversary celebration, as Erna brought a young fan named Elizabeth, who was brought to the show by her father onstage to help toss balloons into the crowd while confetti shot out of air canons signaling the end to a the most entertaining main set.
If the main set wasn’t enough to put and exclamation on Wednesday night in the Motor City suburb, the first encore settled things, as Erna, seated at a piano , spoke about the group’s mental health charity (scarsfoundation.org) and dedicated the song to late rock brethren such as Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Amy Winehouse, Dimebag Darrell Abbott and Eddie Van Halen. A mesmerizing cut by itself, the live performance brings its meaning to life and puts a perspective on a disease that effects millions world wide.
Godsmack shifted back into party mode to close the night with supercharged renditions of “Bulletproof” and “I Stand Alone,” with more, you guessed it pyrotechnics. It could well have been just a blast from the past, but Godsmack sounded as present as ever and unlikely to lose that trajectory any time soon. As the final notes of “I Stand Alone” reverberated through the night air, the collective energy of the audience and the band reached its peak. Godsmack had not just performed a concert; they had orchestrated an experience that transcended the boundaries of time and genre. Pine Knob Amphitheatre had witnessed a true rock spectacle that reaffirmed the power of music to unite and inspire.
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