Concert Review: Godsmack & Extreme @ Cool Insuring Arena, 10/24/2023

Rock and roll titans Godsmack brought their “Best of Times World Tour” to the Cool Insuring Arena on Tuesday night. The band is touring to support their latest and supposed final album, “Lighting Up The Sky.” Sully Erna and company have stated that this will be their last record and tour. The Boston-based outfit has been touring and recording almost non-stop since the release of their eponymous debut in 1998. The fans in attendance on Tuesday night were treated to a career-spanning, greatest hits setlist that satisfied everyone from the casual fan to the diehards. While the show was not officially listed as a sellout, there were very few empty seats.

Godsmack’s lineup has been steady since the 2002 addition of drummer Shannon Larkin, who replaced original drummer Tommy Stewart—Tony Rombola rounds out the band on lead guitar and Robbie Merrill on bass. Twenty-one years of playing together have turned Godsmack into a well-oiled machine.

A large curtain with the Godsmack tribal logo hung from the arena rafters. When show time arrived, the curtain dropped with an explosion, and the band bounded to the stage amid Larkin’s thundering drum intro to “When Legends Rise,” the title track to their 2018 album. Larkin is one of rock’s greatest drummers. His brutal, pummeling rhythms propel the band with furious momentum. They went directly into “1000 HP” from the 2014 album of the same name. Fire erupted from pyrotechnic cannons just behind the band members as the song kicked off. Blasts of pyro continued to go off throughout the chorus of the song, perfectly in time with the downbeats of the drums. The display brought incredible energy to the performance. The only thing hotter than the pyro may have been the searing leads offered up by Rombola. The guitarist doesn’t move around on stage much, but he absolutely shreds. A newer track, “What About Me,” from their latest release, was greeted with enthusiasm by the Glens Falls crowd. Godsmack only played two other songs from their new album, “You & I” and “Surrender.” The rest of the night was filled with their biggest hits and hard rock radio staples like “Awake” and “Voodoo.”

Toward the end of the show, a second drum set was brought onto the stage, and Erna took his place at the drum throne. Erna and Larkin performed what I can only describe as a drum battle, trading off beats and revving the crowd up. Erna is a stellar drummer in his own right. This display has been a part of Godsmack’s repertoire since at least 2003. It has come to be known as “Batalla De Los Tambores,” and it is worth the price of admission on its own.  They closed their set with their first major radio hit, “Whatever,” from 1998’s debut release. Erna brought a group of young fans to the stage, including a young girl named Annabelle, who was attending her first concert with her grandfather, Rich. The kids were given drumsticks and other treats. It was a cool gesture from the band to their fans. He described the group as “the future of rock and roll.” Those kids will never forget it. A grand piano was wheeled onto the stage, and Sully took his seat at the piano bench. A huge banner unfurled from the rafters with the covers of each of their albums printed on it. It included a message thanking the fans for 25 years. He showed yet another side of his musical talent by playing “Under Your Scars” on the piano. The group ended with the monster hit “I Stand Alone.” If this is indeed the last time that area fans get to see Godsmack live, they were treated to a fitting send-off. The members of the band gave every ounce of energy they had and held nothing back.

Fellow Boston natives Extreme opened the show. Led by virtuoso guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, Extreme could be headliners on just about any other bill. Since the passing of Eddie Van Halen, Bettencourt has been widely regarded as the best hard rock guitarist still performing.  It is hard to argue otherwise. Extreme released their own debut in 1989 but didn’t find true commercial success until their sophomore release, 1990’s Extreme II: Pornograffitti. That record spawned two massive hits, “Hole Hearted” and the ballad “More Than Words.” It also included one of the 1990’s greatest guitar tracks, “Flight of the Wounded Bumble-Bee.” “More Than Words” and “Flight…” were performed on Tuesday night, and Nuno’s technical skills are still jaw-dropping. He also performed a solo acoustic guitar piece that sounded like there was a full band on stage with him. I was unable to determine if he was looping his guitar or if he is just THAT good. The band’s style is hard to pigeonhole. They are hard rock with an ample serving of funk added for extra flavor. Singer Gary Cherone is criminally underrated. His brief stint as lead singer for Van Halen wasn’t a fluke. The dude can sing.  Original bass player Pat Badger teams with long-time drummer Kevin Figueiredo to provide the rhythm section for Bettencourt’s sonic assault.  The highlight of their set was the closing number “Rise” from their 2023 comeback album “Six.” The guitar solo from this song had guitarists all over the world scratching their heads when it was released in March of 2023. It was rated one of the best solos of the 21st century by Total Guitar magazine. A laundry list of guitar luminaries has heaped praise on Bettencourt and the “Rise” solo in particular, including Brian May, Steve Lukather, Phil Collen and Rick Beato. It was a pleasure to see Extreme back on stage. If you get the chance to catch Extreme live, don’t hesitate.

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