American Family Amphitheater
The American Amphitheater sits on the famous Summerfest ground’s Southern end. Around the theater are Lake Michigan and the Port of Milwaukee entrance. The brisky lake air wafts over the facility and fairgrounds cooling the warm evening air a bit. Little did Mother Nature know Godsmack was in town to heat the amphitheater up.
Upon entering the famed Summerfest grounds your walk takes you through a large metal gate that opens into an expansive courtyard filled with food and beverage vendors, tables, yard games, and a local band performing covers. Portable pop-up merch tables lined up along the fences. The lines stretched nearly towards the entrance 200 yards back. Godsmack delivered many exclusive tour items such as shirts and trinkets. The best part about this courtyard is the ability to re-enter after you purchase items. Once the main gates open the mad rush up the ramp into the venue begins. Folks old and young rushed to claim their spots on the enormous floor area. Above the floor area were two decks of seating and an expansive lawn area that dwarfed the floor capacity. These areas filled up quickly. The ambient crowd noise roared and tingled the eardrums. The hallways were bustling with folks enjoying their adult beverages at tables along the overlook of downtown Milwaukee. The visuals of the aesthetics alone filled the heart with blood.
Upfront, the rowdy and enthusiastic fans chanted God-smack from the start of the changeover. With a white curtain that covered the entire stage an introduction with Mix Master Mike of Beatie Boys fame being projected on it and spinning a small mix of classic songs. Concussion bursts then blasted and a black curtain is left hanging. Plastered in the middle of the curtain was the Gosmack insignia. Again, another set of concussion blasts launched over the audience. The curtain fell from its clips to reveal drummer Shannon Larkin demolishing his kit to an extended intro of When Legends Rise. The euphoria spread all through the bowled structure. That feeling stuck with you even after you left the venue. Frontman Sully Erna’s vocals were full, crisp, and ever so powerful. During 1000hp and Cryin’ Like A Bitch his voice was so powerful it blasted out past the microphone in front of him. The venue shook around him with all of the pyro firing off on every note. The optics and adrenaline were off the charts. The middle of the set delivered radio classics Awake and Voodoo. The crowd’s sing-a-long moment during Voodoo raised some goosebumps. The dazzling display drowned out any sounds coming from the stage. This juncture in time wouldn’t be lost within the evening. It was a foreshadowing of things to come.
Several other memorable events of note occurred throughout. Batalla de los tambores was thrilling. The drum competition between frontman Sully Erna on a small modified drum kit that rotates and drummer Shannon Larkin sat behind his kit perched center stage. Off to each side of the stage, Bassist Robbie Merrill and Guitarist Tony Rombola lay down the backing track to the drum-off. Erna and Larkin spar back and forth. While flipping sticks through the air and dropping a bongo solo the two eagerly egged the crowd’s reaction on. The eruption of joy was instantaneous.
Godsmack brought out their classic song Whatever for a heavy-hitting body mover. Despite its heaviness, the band slowed midway through leaving just Rombola strumming his guitar. Erna walked along the front of the stage. While walking he picked four children out of the large pit area and asked them to join him on stage for a moment. As the kids stood on stage next to the band, Sully began to explain to the masses about his love of the older generation of Godsmack fans raising their kids to be the next generation of fans. Which was fitting considering the numerous signs from kids around the venue. Godsmack then kicks back into the song after introducing each kid and asks each youngster to shout “Go Away” when he comes back to them with his microphone. Individually they gave the screams with everything they had and then were ushered off back to their parents.
Additionally, the impressive anthem Under Your Scars presented a unique look at a riveting piano performance and awareness of mental health issues. The grand piano was rolled to center stage. Wrapped around the body was a web address for the Scars Foundation. The nearly 9-minute attention grabber held the crowd captive and silent for a moment before the chorus echoed throughout. Lighters and cell phone lights illuminated the amphitheater tiers. Commentaries from the stage ranged from the legends lost to mental health issues and the general problems of depression, addiction, and bullying. The moment was beyond beautiful.
Closing out the evening Godsmack ripped through Bulletproof to get to a song that is the cornerstone to their career, I Stand Alone. Armed with frequent blasts of pyro spraying itself along the back of the stage, the heat radiated over the front of the stage. Note for note, timed perfectly with the fire display. The pit moved at a fever pitch. Bodies moved whether they wanted to or not. Note for note, timed perfectly with the fire display. Just when you think things couldn’t become any better confetti cannons release piles upon piles of black and red paper into the air. The effect filled the lower level so much so that one could not see the stage.
Armed with material from across 7 studio releases and an EP, the Massachusettes foursome gave everything they had. With a career spanning 25 years, The Best of Times World Tour has shown the World they are still at the top of their game. When you go to a Godsmack show understand they are a full performance. There are no wasted moments. It is all heart and fire. With this stop in Milwaukee being the last stop of the tour the band is preparing for another run across the US after a short break. If you have never been I highly suggest you take the time and enjoy an evening out.
Donate to: Scars Foundation
1. When Legends Rise?
3. Cryin’ Like A Bitch
4. You and I
5. Something Different
6. What About Me
10. Batalla de los tambores
12. Highway To Hell (ACDC Cover)
13. Under Your Scars
15. I Stand Alone