No matter the music genre, there are concert acts that focus on having nothing but fun. Others emphasize political or religious agendas whether you the paying customer like it or not. But in 2019, the hard rock and metal landscape is trending toward having a rockin’ good time while shedding light on vital components of life.
And that’s not exactly a bad thing.
The latest instance came last Tuesday at Freeman Coliseum when Godsmack played the second night of its U.S. tour with Stitched Up Heart before an estimated 3,500 fans at Freeman Coliseum. For all of Godsmack’s heavy older tunes and its newer tracks that tip the scale toward the commercial hard rock side, it was a piano offering that yielded the most important part of the evening.
Announcing his new Scars Foundation, Godsmack vocalist/guitarist/drum battler/pianist (is there anything he can’t do?) and leader Sully Erna introduced new track “Under Your Scars” by revealing an organization focused on something much more useful than preaching — raising awareness of mental health issues such as depression, suicide prevention, post traumatic stress disorder and bullying (more details here). The song is also arguably the most meaningful one on latest album When Legends Rise, for which Godsmack was making its latest San Antonio visit nearly a year to the day of the record’s release that coincided with serving as the theme song to World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Greatest Royal Rumble” pay-per-view event last April 27 in Saudi Arabia (ATM footage and 50-photo slideshow below).
But the serious tone of Godsmack’s ballad didn’t mean the group had lost its touch on rocking out or Erna forgetting how to be silly. When he wasn’t bragging about his hair gel, Erna was encouraging the guys in the crowd to place their significant others atop their shoulders for 1000hp track “Something Different.” Without losing stride, Erna added to his various forms of talent by declaring “I see boobies” when the more daring females decided to flash him.
During previous area visits such as the 2014 Uproar Festival in Corpus Christi, Godsmack had a frustrating knack for opening with mellow tracks such as “Generation Day” (coverage here). Ironically, while touring in support of its mellowest album, Godsmack got the memo to come out with fists pumping on the title tracks to When Legends Rise and 1000hp. The latter is normally accompanied by bursts of flames when Erna bellows “Turn. That. Shit. Up. Louder.” Alas, unlike its neighboring AT&T Center, the Freeman doesn’t allow for pyrotechnics. Those songs were followed by the Erna-penned tune widely believed to be about Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx in “Cryin’ Like a Bitch.”
While Godsmack’s set was fairly similar to its 2017 River City Rockfest visit save for the new tunes (coverage here), such as including mainstays “Straight Out of Line,” “Voodoo,” “The Enemy” and traditional closer “I Stand Alone” (setlist below), they did shake things up a bit. Longtime fans’ knowledge was tested when the band segeued first-album classic “Keep Away” into an instrumental jam of the last half of the debut album’s opening number “Moon Baby.”
But of course, the favorite part of any Godsmack concert continues to be Erna’s drum battle with Shannon Larkin better known as “Batalla de los Tambores.” With Larkin’s drum kit coming to the forefront of the stage, Erna’s own kit appeared from behind a curtain and perched itself next to Larkin’s as the duo matched one another with various beats and riffs including Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as joined by lead guitarist Tony Rombola and bassist Robbie Merrill (ATM footage below). As is also Godsmack’s tradition, the batalla gave way to a very extended version of “Whatever” as Erna kept up his custom of motivating the fans by telling them if they were loud enough to his liking, he would go to the next city of Beaumont and tell them “they are a bunch of goddamn pussies” compared to San Antonio. Of course, Erna likely said the same thing about the Alamo City during the tour kickoff in Arizona. But who’s keeping score?
Support act Stitched Up Heart wasn’t immune from displaying its importance either. Living the dream by opening for Godsmack, frontwoman Alecia “Mixi” Demner — who used to deliver pizzas before rocking out in arenas — guitarist Merritt Goodwin, bassist Randy Mathias and drummer James Decker mixed tracks from 2016 debut Never Alone with those scheduled to appear on this fall’s sophomore effort (ATM Facebook Live footage here).
The day after the concert, Stitched Up Heart released “Lost” as a new single featuring Erna helping out on vocals (listen here). While it would’ve been a special treat to see the two team up live, that didn’t happen. Nevertheless, the track is Stitched Up Heart’s version of inspiring those who struggle with mental issues.
“ ‘Lost’ is about being trapped inside your mind and struggling against yourself to see the light,” Demner says in a press release. “Sully and I had been trying to work on something together for awhile, and I’m so grateful that we were able to collaborate on this. It turned out even better than I imagined, and I’m so excited to share it as the first taste of our new music.”
With a little bit of luck and plenty of fortitude, perhaps other metal bands will follow Godsmack’s and Stitched Up Heart’s lead by using their platform to let their fans new and old know how they can improve the lives of their own friends, family members and themselves amidst their personal difficulties. Rocking out to a slew of songs for three hours in addition to that would merely be the icing on the cake.
GODSMACK SETLIST: When Legends Rise, 1000hp, Cryin’ Like a Bitch, Say My Name, Straight Out of Line, Awake, Unforgettable, Something Different, Keep Away (segueing into last half of "Moon Baby”), The Enemy, Voodoo, Batalla de los Tambores (drum battle), Whatever, Under Your Scars, Bulletproof, Come Together, I Stand Alone