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Godsmack at Target Center, 10/5/14

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Godsmack
with Seether and Within Reason
Target Center, Minneapolis
Sunday, October 5, 2014

Godsmack's latest record, 1000hp, broke a three-year streak of number-one albums, hitting the number-three spot on the BIllboard charts this past August. Their now four-times platinum self-titled debut led with singles about getting away from them and keeping away from them, respectively. Amid the fungible nu-metal infecting 93X airwaves, the Boston band's workmanlike hard rock stood out by aligning itself more with traditional approaches to heavy metal.

See also:
Slideshow: Godsmack Rock the Target Center

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Their chugging one-note rhythms and pop sensibilities were more along the lines of an AC/DC (whose "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)" opened Godsmack's set with a triumphant explosion that jumped straight to their latest reflective single "1000hp") than a Linkin Park or Korn. Using monosyllabic, melodic bursts for hook fodder instead of angst-ridden raps, Godsmack couldn't quite be put in the same category as the era of radio rock that surrounded it. Though they shared a penchant for slickly produced aggression and emo harmonies, the band left nu-metal behind and continued to bring post-grunge to large arenas some 15 years down the line.

Openers Within Reason displayed the sort of post-nu-metal songwriting that adopts a variety of styles that don't really work together. One minute it's sappy metal schmaltz, the next it's poor renditions of LL Cool J sex raps over bar chords. A few screamo yelps and bald eagle squawks unnecessarily found their way into songs. They weren't great, but they had an earnestness that was hard to hate, stating how this year's openers are next year's headliners and they were glad people showed up early to support. But it's hard enough to get behind rap-metal anything, especially when you make MC Underdog of Hed Pe sound like Pimp C. 

Seether had a stronger set, imbuing their butt-rock with a touch of twang that worked surprisingly well. They fared better when they appropriated melodies from Tears for Fears rather than Puddle of Mudd, but it was nu-hoedown "Country Song," complete with hired stage square-dancers, that stood out the most. Their impassioned and downhearted songwriting was at its best when breaking the consistency with genre allusions outside of typical disgruntled modern rock. Shaun Morgan's penchant for aping Kurt Cobain was best cut with a slight tinge of country-western accenting and riffs, bringing a more unique take to the sound hundreds adopted in the wake of post-Nirvana chart-scrambling. The smash hits played big to the sizable crowd, and it's always a delight to see a response of that magnitude.
Pyrotechnics and explosions introduced Godsmack after Brian Johnson squealed the final "Fire!" of his rock salute -- an immediate sensory jolt meant to prepare one for the onslaught of big noise ahead. The fireballs synchronized with the drum patterns of "1000hp" and added a visual excitement to a song that needed the help. It's Xeroxed Godsmack, a crudely rendered version of themselves both in narrative and in design that signifies some of the group's diminishing returns.

Reinventing the wheel has never been a high priority for them, and especially at this point in their career, sticking to their core sound is becoming all the more wearing. The front end of the set was all newer material, which grew thin as similar territory was tread again and again. Lead singer Sully Erna does have some impressive vocal skills regardless of the material, finding a harmonic approach to the Metallica growl that satisfies wants for both tuneful choruses and pissy grunts. In the latter portion of the show, he set his guitar down to focus on screaming and pointing at the audience.
The band's performance plodded forward with a bristling, sustained power that was fist-bump friendly and promoted crowd movement. Drummer Shannon Larkin flailed away at cymbals with full-body swipes that accentuated the material's punchiness effectively. "Awake" in particular was a highlight, bringing the houselights down to showcase Larkin's tom rolls with syncopated spotlights that gave way to full flashing bulbs when the power chords resurfaced. It's about as brutal as the group got, pummeling full-force on a single-note bridge section that would've satisfied any fan of down-tuned jud-jud guitar.

Much of the material bled together too easily, striving for little else than satisfactorily loud distortion and lyrics about being upset, but the crowd seemed pleased. Shortly after the band's lone venture into a spare, stripped-down sound, "Voodoo," roadies wheeled a second drum set onstage for Erna to wail on during a two-man drum solo. The drum podiums spun in circles as Erna and Larkin matched each other's manic playing, though only Erna felt the need to stand up and elicit applause every eight bars.
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Going from a raucous dual drum section into the throwback powerhouse "Whatever" got energy levels high, only to very quickly dissipate. After the carnivalesque tossing of beers into the audience to test their catching abilities (as they did in every city), Erna took stalling to a whole new level with an oddly placed awards show thanking various members of the road crew.

"I don't care if this bores you to death," he said amid the various categories and nominees. "Go to the bathroom or something." As the final stop on the current tour, Minneapolis got the rare treat of sitting through Erna's lame jokes and energy-draining earnestness for the bulk of the tail end of the set. For sitting through it, they gave us one more song afterward, "I Stand Alone." It was a better way to close out than with the confusing awards set, though some of the aggressive veneer had been pulled away. 

Personal Bias: I'd honestly not given Godsmack much thought since middle school. 

The Crowd: A fairly wide range of ages, but that's primarily where the diversity lay.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Seriously, shut the fuck up!" - a fan unappreciative of the awards show portion.

Random Notebook Dump: This is the only time I've ever seen a metal singer call for the pit to open up so people could "bounce up and down."

Setlist:
1000hp

Cryin' Like a Bitch

What's Next?

Locked and Loaded

Keep Away
 the Enemy

Something Different
Awake

Speak
Voodoo
Drum Solo / Rock Medley 

Whatever

I Stand Alone

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