Godsmack, the Boston area quartet who first rose to prominence at the very end of the last century are on the road in support of 2018’s album When Legends Rise. Spending the better part of the last eight months promoting the latest release, they played a homestretch show at The Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA. Sunday, October 13th which marked the one week left point of their headlining tour. Aside from a few upcoming festival dates, the marathon tour will conclude on October 26th. The last month of this campaign saw Halestorm and Monster Truck bolstering the shows.
The evening kicks off with the Toyota Arena around three-quarters full, which is a nice turnout for the opener of a three band bill. The four member hard rock band from Ontario, Canada treats the Ontario, California crowd to a brief seven song performance. Commencing with Don’t Tell Me How To Live, bassist and vocalist John Harvey admonishes the listener against doing that with his authoritative tone. Guitarist Jeremy Widerman repeatedly brings great riffs, keyboardist Brandon Bliss fills the spaces and drummer Steve Kiely bangs out clean rhythms which all combine in a north of the border, Southern style. Their sound which borrows from the legends of the Southern rock style is never more evident than in Country Livin’. Monster Truck delivers so well in a half hour set that it would be worth going a little out of your way to find them playing 90 minutes.
The second act on the bill is Halestorm, who hit the stage with a headliner’s presentation. With full stage light rigs flanking either side of the drum riser, their set is not only an auditory attraction, but a visual one as well. The band is fronted by rhythm guitarist and vocalist Lzzy Hale, who is also an auditory and visual attraction. Hale, along with her brother Arejay Hale who is the drummer are the two remaining founding members. Lzzy is the undisputed leader, focal point and draw for the band. She is set dead center, with the rear lights producing colored beams to either side. She growls out her vocals, while facially gesturing to the near capacity crowd. This lady knows how to connect with an audience. Joe Hottinger and Josh Smith inconspicuously provide lead guitar and bass respectively, from the wings. Arejay, sitting behind a large, green sparkle drum kit, punishes his drums throughout production.
Halestorm get a one hour slot and crams about two-hours worth of entertainment into it. Launched with Do Not Disturb, the set rolls on with Love Bites (So Do I). A duet between Smith and Arejay transitions into an invigorating drum solo by Arejay, which culminates in him lashing playfully with drumsticks the size of baseball bats. The act concludes with a pair of fan favorites. The first, Here’s To Us, is an ode to sticking together and raising your favorite libation in a proverbial F U to life’s circumstances, and the arena eats it up. Their evening finishes with I Miss The Misery. Halestorm belts out the final number and extends it with a seemingly endless guitar solo jam. The unnecessarily long finale may be the only low point in what was otherwise a stellar delivery. The long and the short of it, Halestorm rocks, pure and simple.
From behind a giant curtain which conceals the stage with their logo on it, the headliners begin their set. The curtain drops, revealing drummer Shannon Larkin thumping out the intro to When Legends Rise on a rotating riser. Godsmack’s stage presentation is in stark contrast to Halestorm’s. They go about their business on an expansive, minimalist stage which is very open and aside from the huge banner behind the stage is devoid of any frills. Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Sully Erna charms the guests with a smile that belies the attitude of their music. They roll through songs like Cryin’ Like A Bitch!!, Voodoo and Take It To The Edge. Tony Rombola picks out raunchy lead guitar riffs from the right side of the stage in relative darkness. His counterbalance on the left side of the stage, bassist Robbie Merrill lives in the same dark obscurity, but roams the stage giving the bottom to the sonic blast.
Godsmack’s offering is underscored by two very notable moments. The first comes about two-thirds in, when a second drum set emerges from behind Larkin’s. Erna mounts the second and he and Larkin engage in a drum duet which is accompanied with accents tossed in by Rombola and Merrill. The climax of the duet, titled Batalla De Los Tambores, are snipets of Enter Sandman, Walk This Way, Moby Dick and Tom Sawyer. The second hallmark is the first of a four tune encore, which would also include a cover of The Beatles’ Come Together. Under Your Scars from the latest release, When Legends Rise shows a bit of the tender side of the group. Erna sits behind a grand piano as they waltz through the love song. The evening reaches its ultimate end with I Stand Alone with its blistering riff. The song, originally from The Scorpion King soundtrack is a fitting conclusion to send the attendees off in a frenzy.
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