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MUSIC: Godsmack rouses black-clad Anchorage rock fans
ROWDY: Band makes good on 3-year-old promise to return.

Daily News music reviewer

Published: July 1, 2006
Last Modified: July 1, 2006 at 03:27 AM

For Alaskans all about hard rock, Godsmack salutes you.

The chart-topping band was back in Anchorage after a three-year absence that left fans hungry for more. Sullivan Arena has recently been filling with jersey-clad Aces hockey boosters, but Thursday night the crowd's dress was decidedly more macabre. Fans were decked out in black head to toe, with lots of leather and long hair.

While concertgoers piled into the fog-filled arena, the house system pumped-out classic cuts from Rush, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest. When AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)" ended, the lights in the arena cut out and flashing strobe lights signaled Godsmack's arrival.

The frenzied crowd let out a collective scream when front man Sully Erna took the stage and began growling the hit "Whatever."

"I have two rules," Erna said after the song. "You have to be loud, and you can't sit down."

He didn't even need to say it. The rowdy crew was in Erna's back pocket after the first sound from his mouth, screaming their lungs out, moshing with fervor and crowd-surfing with abandon. As Erna worked from one side of the stage to the other, he dished out high-fives and commended the audience for being louder than it was the last time the band played Anchorage.

Godsmack worked through its catalog, playing hits, cuts from a new album, fan favorites from a 1998 album and everything in between.

One of the biggest crowd responses came when Erna let out the a cappella intro to "Voodoo." The mass on the floor joined him in song, raising lighters toward the rafters.

The slower track provided a brief reprieve from the bath of loud rock and light beams that the audience had been soaking in. There was a slow trickle of shirtless and sweaty moshers trudging up the stairs from the concert floor to reach air and water.

The audience was more than just 20-somethings searching for pleasure in the pit. Also spotted were grade-school students with curious parents, goth-garbed teens and middle-aged mullet rockers who all jumped at a chance to headbang on a weeknight. Tattoos and piercings are still the accessories of choice among Godsmack fans, and many showed off their love of heavy metal with T-shirts from the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica and Marilyn Manson.

Things were soon hot and heavy onstage as the band blasted through its monster smash, "Awake." As the song finished and drummer Shannon Larkin went into an extended solo, the platform his drum kit was on motored to the front of the stage. While Larkin played, another drum set manned by Erna cruised out from behind a curtain on the stage's side. The audience was rapt as the two traded solos, Larkin playing with sticks, Erna using his hands.

The band then closed with "Keep Away" and headed offstage. Instantly the fans started cheering, stomping and pleading. They had waited several years to see Godsmack again and weren't going to let them leave without an encore.

Not one to disappoint, guitarist Tony Rombola returned to the stage with a double-necked guitar and began playing "Serenity," and the rest of the group soon returned to accompany him. Afterward, Erna whipped out his harmonica and led the band through the classic Black Sabbath song "The Wizard" before the band finished off the night with its current single, "Speak."

Before leaving the stage, Erna vowed Godsmack would again return to Alaska. "We'll always come back and play for you."