–by Jeff Quirin
–photos by Greg Artime/Artimeg.com
It’s been a minute (or a while) since I’ve seen the way both Staind and Godsmack can light up a crowd on a warm summer night. At the risk of dating myself, it’s probably been close to 20 years. In that time they’ve continued recording great music in their well defined styles. They brought their full catalog of songs with them to rock the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater Tuesday night.
The night started as just about any other June evening in St Louis. Warm, muggy, and not much of a breeze to give a reprieve from the setting sun. As folks made their way through the gates to quick stops at the merch stand and drink booth they came to their seats to hear Mix Master Mike of Beastie Boys fame spinning a blend of mashups that sounded more like something you’d hear on TikTok.
Now, I’d venture to guess some would question why for a “rock concert” would someone like Mix Master Mike open the show. I certainly did at first. Then I started putting myself in 19 year old me shoes’ instead of the current ones my 40 year old self is in. Firstly, and most simply, nostalgia. Yes, songs like Intergalactic don’t sound like your average Godsmack track, but there is definitely a Venn diagram overlap in interest between songs like Sabotage and the style of rock music Staind and Godsmack were major parts of for Gen X’ers and elder Millenillals. Connecting the dots then isn’t such a reach because the kind of rock music to come is definitely something Mike is here for.
For about a half hour Mike blended techno beats with Beastie Boys hits and classic tracks from the last 30 plus years of rock history. From his contemporaries like Rage Against the Machine to those who came next like Papa Roach and Linkin Park, to foundational rockers like Metallica and Pantera, to even some rap/hip-hop and techno influenced artists like Eminem and Prodigy. Like the rest of the show to follow him the focus on a hit list of songs covering the 90s and early 2000s got the crowd to forget the heat and start moving to the beat.
After having enough time to get a new drink to beat the heat, Staind took the stage. Whereas 23 years has passed since I first saw Staind, on Korn’s Sick & Twisted tour back in 2000, and much outside the world of music has changed, the band still looks and performs much the same. Frontman Aaron Lewis looked stoic and pensive on stage as he draped his arms over the mic stand to belt out emotion laden lyrics. Opening with their latest single, Lowest In Me, they quickly jumped to their 2011 self-titled album to Not Again before bringing the crowd to 1999 and their Dysfunction album with Just Go and Home. From there they served a healthy dose of their biggest hits from Break the Cycle and 14 Shades including Right Here, Outside, For You, and It’s Been a While before wrapping up with the song that put them on the rock map, Mudshovel.
While there may have been far less moshing in the pit with this performance compared to those when Staind was making their name, the vibe was still strong. Transporting me back to a time where warm summer nights like this were spent hanging out with friends putting on The Point for background music while playing games or driving around town to get into whatever nonsense we could find. Windows down and the radio up. Those of us back that far mellowed out and so has the band. With lead guitarist Mike Mushok joining Aaron for Something to Reminder You before Aaron grabbed an acoustic guitar to perform Epiphany solo.
With the crowd sufficiently primed for the final 90 minutes, Mix Master Mike returned to the stage. Not in person, but in a video projected onto the curtain guarding the Godsmack setup behind it. With Mike bringing more of his rock mashups everyone was overloaded and ready to explode. That’s exactly what happened.
With a dramatic curtain drop Godsmack started their journey through 25 years of albums with Legends Rise. A fitting choice given their status in the rock/metal genre and it being the first song of the set. From there it could only go harder and faster. Straight into Cryin’ Like a Bitch and 1000hp. Where Staind’s catalog has a dry spell, Godsmack has a steady stream of albums covering the last 10 years to pull from. Allowing them to bring in the old with the new and make the mix Tuesday night. Dropping in songs off their latest album, Lighting Up The Sky, with Soul on Fire and Something Different alongside the biggest of their hits like Awake, Whatever, and Voodoo.
The highlight of their set has to be Batalla De Los Tambores. As drummer Shannon Larkin, and his whole drum kit, is transported from the center back of the stage to the right front. As he moves out frontman Sully Erna, who had disappeared momentarily, emerges with his own drum kit. As they’re wheeled into position the music doesn’t stop. Sully’s play accenting Shannon’s. As the song ramps down around the halfway mark it comes back up with Sully and Shannon playing in tandem. Tossing drumsticks and smiling the whole time. Spotify will tell you the song is 6:31 long, but at the show it had to be an easy 10 minutes.
Just about anyone who pays attention to music will tell you how talented Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters is, and he definitely is. If Sully isn’t in that same conversation, he should be. Not only is he on stage singing and screaming his heart out (the veins on his neck as proof), but he’s playing guitar, before he slips in to playing drums and also the piano. His stage presence and performance is with the price of admission for anyone interested in rock music. Godsmack’s stage setup also has aged as well as they have. No fancy electronics or big screen. Just good ole reliable pyrotechnics and fireworks. Oh, we’re there pyrotechnics. It’s only a little hyperbolic to say that folks on the lawn could feel the flames.
To wrap up the night Godsmack dropped a metric ton of confetti on the crowd before unveiling one more surprise. A “thank you for 25 years” message showing all their albums and the years they released. From their self-titled debut in 1998 to this year’s Lighting Up The Sky. While its great to recognize their longevity and rich history of work, it did make someone between the Gen X’s and Millennials feel older than I’d like to admit.
If there is one constant with St. Louis and rock shows, its that fans show up and are ready to party. As Sully slowed things down, temporarily in their encore, to play Under Your Scars he referenced this show being the tour’s first and that he was blown away by the response. As he said, “the first ones don’t always go well, but this one I’ll remember for the rest of my life”. I don’t think anyone wasn’t right there with him.
Be sure to check out the full photo gallery after the setlists below.
Lowest in Me
Eyes Wide Open
Something to Remind You
So Far Away
It’s Been Awhile
When Legends Rise
Cryin’ Like a Bitch
You and I
Soul on Fire
What About Me
Batalla de los tambores
Under Your Scars
I Stand Alone