Photos by Laura Fox (LLFoxphotos)
Review by Dave Fox
Every time I’ve seen Godsmack live, it’s been a great show, but their concert at Ruoff Music Center on August 12, 2023, was one to remember!
When the lights first dimmed, the entire audience jumped to their feet and started cheering. Then the curtain dropped dramatically as Godsmack started their set with “When Legends Rise.” All 21,000+ fans roared even louder. You could tell that the crowd loves this band, and judging by the looks on their faces, Godsmack loves them back.
On more than one occasion, lead singer/rhythm guitarist Sully Erna expressed gratitude and appreciation for their loyalty. He stated that they love coming to Indiana, and that this was the biggest audience on the tour so far. He is a great frontman, putting both power and passion into the show and speaking to the audience frequently between songs. I don’t want to spoil too much, but highlights included a tequila tech, waiting for Tony to “fix his f*ing guitar,” and a 10-year-old fan named Zander who got to be front and center with Erna. My wife, who goes to a lot more concerts than I do, said this show had the most engaged audience she’d seen since Slipknot played at Ruoff in 2021.
In addition to watching Sully Erna perform, it was great watching bassist Robbie Merrill. He’s not the kind of guy to stand there just strumming the bass – he is constantly on the move and interacting with the audience. His huge grin just makes you want to smile along with him, even while you’re head banging to the heaviest song.
Lead guitarist Tony Rombola was even more animated than usual. He normally doesn’t show a lot of emotion on stage, but he seemed a little freer this time. It was amazing to watch him play killer riffs as though they were nothing.
Drummer Shannon Larkin was in full beast mode all night. I was happy he was elevated above the rest of the band so we could see him better, because he is an amazing drummer. It’s fun watching the intensity on his face, and I love the way he flips his sticks way into the air and catches them.
Godsmack’s set was long, loud, and heavy. They played all the hits you would expect, plus two releases from their latest album, “Lighting Up the Sky.” There was also a great mashup of 80s rock hits “just for fun.” And of course the double-drum number, “Batalla de los Tambores .“
There were some serious moments, though, and it got emotional when Sully Erna introduced the first encore song, “Under Your Scars” by talking about the band’s non-profit, The Scars Foundation. The foundation provides help and information about mental health, addition, and suicide prevention. During the introduction, Erna mentioned fellow musicians who were taken too soon, such as Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Dimebag Darrell, Amy Winehouse, and Vinnie Paul. Erna played a beautiful, black grand piano for “Under Your Scars,” which made the song seem even more personal.
The very last song of the night was 2003’s “I Stand Alone.” I had kind of wanted to leave early to beat the traffic, but I’m glad we stayed. It seemed like the place was singing along and putting their hands in the air. It was a great ending to a fantastic show!
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