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Thursday November 30, 2006
Live shows win new fans for Godsmack, reward old ones

By Debbie Swartz
Press & Sun-Bulletin

Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin was on his way to a show in Tampa, Fla., with wife Faye and daughter Jessamin when I caught up with him to ask about the band's concert next week in Binghamton.

Larkin said he's looking forward to it, since he's got family in Alabama.When told the gig's in Binghamton (not Birmingham), the man devoted to his music comes clean.

"It all becomes a blur after three or four months," Larkin said.

That's not to say he isn't looking forward to the show at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena -- in fact it's just the opposite. "It's always nice to play upstate New York," Larkin said. "They seem to like blue-collar rock, and that's what we do."

With 10 million records sold, Boston-based Godsmack is known as one of the best when it comes to cultivating new fans while not disappointing the diehards. Part of that allure is the band's live shows, which include lots of pyrotechnics, huge video screens and a mix of hits and deep cuts for the long-time fans, Larkin said.

"I'd like to think we kick ass live," he said.

By the end of the tour, Larkin said, the band members will likely have no money, since they spend so much on the shows themselves.

"We definitely have a huge production," he said. "We bring the noise."

Though the band loves to play to a live audience, it would be nothing, he said, without the technical help of Frank Sgambellone -- a last name that rhymes with Godsmack's biggest hit to date, "I Stand Alone" (which Frank takes some ribbing for, Larkin said).

"We have the best sound man in the business," he said.

From the band's new album, "Godsmack IV," have come such hits as "Speak" and "Shine Down." The lyrics for the album, written by vocalist Erna Sully, deal with the raw emotions of addiction to alcohol, cigarettes and women, Larkin said.

"He writes about himself," he said.

While the songs are personal reflections, Larkin said, the lyrics are broad enough so listeners can reflect on their own inner turmoil.

"Godsmack IV," the band's fifth album, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart. The band has received several Grammy nominations since its 1998 debut, and won a Billboard Music Award and 12 Boston Music Awards.

Godsmack songs -- which have been used on video games such Madden NFL '07, at World Wrestling Entertainment shows and in movies such as "The Scorpion King" -- have a metal edge that goes great with a beating. While unsure whether that helps sales or not, Larkin said, he, Sully and fellow band members Robbie Merril and Tony Rombola get into some of the same things their fans do.

"We are gamers," he said.

Godsmack will bring along SOil and Shinedown, the latter a southern band of great singers and songwriters, Larkin said.

"We love that band," he said.

Larkin, 39, said he's known only drumming ever since his older sister turned him on to Led Zepplin and Rush when he was young. By 13, he said, he was playing in nightclubs and at 16 he was playing in -- guess where? -- upstate New York.

"I've never done anything else," Larkin said, "but play drums."