On this evening at The Bears Den in Niagara Falls at the Seneca Niagara Casino, I am sitting down amidst crowd of a few hundred people in a dimly lit theater. The crowd seems a little restless as they see a stage set up with a virtual cavalcade of different instruments on and about the stage.
Promptly at 8:00 PM, the lights fade and what feels like an IMAX movie begins to play about how sound itself is a gift filled with wonder and excitement that reaches people deep down to the soul. This was the general feeling of the evening and if anything could be said about the Sully Erna show, it is that music connects us and is more powerful that we admit. The movie finishes playing and Sully comes out greeting the roaring crowd. The crowd begins to die down a little bit as Sully takes center stage in jeans and a t-shirt with an acoustic guitar in hand. There are admittedly few technical difficulties with the guitar at first, but Erna plays to the crowd with satire as to the evening stating that “everything isn’t always perfect.” To be honest though it wasn’t part of the shows intention. It helped sync the crowd down to an intimate setting that suited the venue with seemingly little security, space or pomp and circumstance that was opposite of what is expected from a Godsmack show.
Sully begins by opening with a few fan favorite Godsmack tunes and the crowd was immediately into the show with Erna being perfect pitch for the entire show. He played “Awake” and “Keep Away”, then begins with a personal anecdote about how hard it was being raised in a single parent home by his Mother in Boston, Massachusetts where there is a lot of drugs and violence. He segues into how his struggles turned him to rock music and how Godsmack as a band had hard times that followed. Self medication issues and personal problems within the band arose but they overcame their troubles and came out better for it as a whole.
We move on to the tracks “Running Blind” and an Alice In Chains cover, “Nutshell” amidst a backdrop of a video montage of influential musicians to Sully including Layne Staley, Freddie Mercury, Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash, Sid Vicious and Cliff Burton just to name a few. The general direction emphasizes music appreciation overall and pays homage to numerous legends that came before the current incarnations.
The show moves forward as Sully invites his fellow bandmates to come out for “Avalon” with Lisa Guyer singing beautiful bluesy vocals that hit high on the upper register wihtout breaking a sweat it seems. Erna tells the crowd about Lisa and says that she is “The best Blues singer he has ever heard.” They all progress through a myriad of songs from there including “Hollow” and “Sinners Prayer” stopping only for a montage about the Aids epidemic in Africa and a humble one between Erna and his daughter during “My Light”. The show draws to close as the crowd is seemingly entranced by the performance from start to finish.
The whole band comes out again after a few minutes to play an encore of “Serenity”, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and ending strong with a cover of The Beatles “Hey Jude”. Sully encouraged the crowd as they came down to the stage area singing with him during “Hey Jude” clapping all the while. The show ended in intimacy, humility and honestly, completely juxtaposed to the entire rockstar mentality. There were no characters and no bravado. It was something that by the end, you were certain you got something more real than power chords or pyrotechnic displays could offer. You got a lot of energy and more humanity, which was refreshing and surprising.
Awake (Godsmack song)
Keep Away (Godsmack song)
Running Blind (Godsmack song)
Nutshell (Alice in Chains cover)
Fall Into Black
Hollow (Godsmack song)
Eyes of a Child
Forever My Infinity
Touche (Godsmack song)
Time (Pink Floyd cover)
Serenity (Godsmack song)
The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Hey Jude (The Beatles cover)
Special thanks to Kymm Britton and Tony Astran for their assistance for allowing us to review the show