Initially, Godsmack’s UK dates were postponed at the end of last year for tragic reasons. However, the rescheduled shows quickly flew around and having never seen Godsmack indoors, I was eagerly anticipating the gig at Manchester’s legendary Ritz venue. Support tonight would be provided by Like a Storm, who I had surprisingly enjoyed a few years previously at the much larger capacity Manchester Arena with Alter Bridge. My girlfriend is a massive Godsmack fan and we eagerly counted down the days by perusing their entire back catalogue of albums prior to their arrival in Manchester. Unfortunately, on the night due to poor health, she was unable to accompany me to the show. Having braved the usual elements of weather and traffic, I arrived at the venue with plenty of time to spare to do my pre-show interview with the band. Fortunately, I was blessed with chatting to not just the one band member as promised, but actually both Sully and Shannon. Anyway, on with the show as they say… Interview completed, I was able to locate a good vantage point for the evening’s proceedings in the middle of the upstairs balcony – my usual spot for maximum observation of the crowd/stage, and a great sound.
Fortunately, tonight there would just be the one support band as I have found recently with 3-4 band bills that the early doors opening doesn’t facilitate good audience numbers. Initial viewing of the stage quickly revealed that Like A Storm would be employing some stage props to aid the visuals of their live performance. Open doors and it was pleasing to view that Like A Storm would be playing to an almost capacity venue. Also encouraging to see that their merchandise appeared to be doing a roaring trade pre-starting time, certainly on a par with that of the evening’s headliners, as fans got bedecked in the latest tour shirts before the opening notes.
Opening with “Pure Evil” from last year’s Catacombs release, it was a hard-hitting and punchy start as singer Chris Brooks wasted no time in creating a whirlwind of movement as he traversed every inch of the expansive Ritz stage. What sets the band apart from their contemporaries is that they employ a unique instrument in delivering their sound. First time I merely put the onstage didgeridoo as a cheap gimmick. The second time around I was more receptive to what the band were trying to do by employing its use in their music. Yes, it also serves as an attractive and unique feature on stage especially with the skeletons, but it does also create a unique sound. In an age of followers and copyists, it is always good to have a certain element of uniqueness. The band is also a literal ‘band of brothers’, and it’s very apparent with the interaction and visual connection that is present while they are on stage. The audience seemed to be very appreciative of the band’s musical delivery and it wasn’t just the kids in Like A Storm t-shirts that were forming circle pits and throwing back their heads with the music. The band’s short 8-song set flew by very quickly, climaxing with their anthemic sing-along, “Love the way you hate me”. No unusual cover present tonight as they decided to just focus on their own material. Very impressed with the band’s stage presence/visuals and also number one and of most important quality of the band’s songs.
Quick stage changeover and it was time for tonight’s headliners. Featuring a backdrop of their latest album cover, When Legends Rise, Godsmack chose to begin with the title track and instantly lit a touchpaper as mayhem ensued. One song in and already pits were going off and beers were thrown to the heavens. It was clear that both band and audience wanted to party like it was Saturday night – only it wasn’t. The sound guys had done a quality job as all instruments were sounding crystal clear as I now moved around to different areas of the venue. Opening track delivered, the up-tempo vibe continued with the sing-along “1000 hp”, the title track from their 2014 album. I had stolen a glance at the evening’s setlist earlier and I felt that it was pretty much a solid, comprehensive ‘best of’ selection. Indeed, I would have picked something very similar myself had I been given the personal opportunity. One track that stood out for me during the set was the quieter newbie, “Under Your Scars“, which Sully introduced by explaining that as a follow-up the band had set up a new mental health charity which would bear the song’s name. This seemed to resonate personally for many in the venue when I looked around at the expressions on people’s faces. It’s particularly appropriate in an age where mental health issues have no boundaries as I write this the day after Prodigy frontman Keith Flint has taken his own life. It was beautifully delivered and with a great deal of poignancy as Sully performed it behind a piano. This took the heightened energy of the crowd down a few levels before the band went off stage before the obligatory encores. Concluding with their universally known movie song hit, “I Stand Alone”, it was another cue for a massive singalong as the noise levels again raised the roof before the band exited the stage. Definitely preferable to seeing Godsmack in daylight at a festival this was a quite brilliant live performance.
All photos by Jack Barker