LONDON FREE PRESS

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Godsmack a good hit

Thu, June 15, 2006

A sold-out crowd of 1,658 young metal fans was energized by the Centennial Hall concert.

By JAMES REANEY, FREE PRESS ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

There's nothing like a jolt from Godsmack's big new IV by four to shake things up.

Boston band Godsmack's four members showcased their latest release Godsmack IV (Universal) and made room for plenty of metal hits from their past at Centennial Hall last night.

A sold-out crowd of 1,658 young metal fans stood on the floor and in the balcony as their heroes went to the past for Voodoo and their current catalogue for Speak and other hits from Godsmack IV. Oklahoma band Hinder opened for Godsmack.

The band's name comes from its notion of instant karma, of inviting a "smack" from God by showing too much of the wrong type of pride or puffed-up hubris.

The first hour-plus of last night's concert was full of the best smacks. Precise and loud -- not painfully, distortion-bad-hoodoo loud. Theatrical at times, but never just showing off.

When the band hit the stage, frontman Sully Erna was in shades, tight white bandanna and muscular -- in appearance and voice.

"I want 110 per cent from you -- understand? I want you to sing so loud, they are going to hear you in New York City," Erna told the fans shouting along with the opening song, Whatever, from the band's beginnings in the late 1990s.

It was the third song before Godsmack checked out IV's opening track, Livin in Sin.

Erna has called that song the beginning of a spiritual journey on Godsmack IV. Last night, its energy powered up the crowd, which was happy to be on a journey into the heart of metal.

Godsmack first blitzed the metal road in 1995, when Erna decided to step out from behind the drum kit to front the band with bassist Robbie Merrill, guitarist Tony Rombola and drummer Tommy Stewart. Shannon Larkin joined about four years ago, replacing Stewart.

Rombola ripped through the guitar solos, while Erna lost the shades -- never a bad idea -- and strapped on a guitar by the 20-minute mark. Erna's guitar came and went as the band blasted through the concert, with one of the best light shows at Centennial Hall in recent memory.

Erna conjured up his best snake and shake moves for Voodoo. It's hard to believe such a slinky song was so controversial -- huh? -- back in the day.

Then the band shifted gears completely for the blues rocker Shine Down. Erna wailed on harmonica -- which the crowd loved -- Merrill and Rombola switched on their Led Zeppelin riff-magic and the spiritual force of the lyrics actually lit up the night as much as the light stands, flashing bulbs and brilliant beacons all around Godsmack.

Erna also spent some time on a riser behind Larkin to declaim some of the band's most anthem-minded tunes.

Major blasts of Godsmack insight such as Awake and Speak will always sound best from a platform. It didn't hurt that Erna was positioned at such moments just under Godsmack's sunburst-like logo. As theatre, as spectacle, it made him into a metal priest leading a loud and happy ritual.

Just as loud and happy was the prolonged era when Erna revisited his past as a drummer near the hour mark. Rock fans from the dawn of time have always loved the thumpings of a drum solo -- but if there have to be such percussion smack snacks, they might as well be duos. Erna and the long-haired, sweating Larkin had a blast, even -- maybe especially -- when Erna would toss his drumstick into the air, only to lose it in the lights.

Other than those sticks smacking down, Godsmack's jolts were almost all positive ones.