It’s been four long years, but Godsmack’s thunderous return to London’s Budweiser Gardens proved one thing: Rock ‘n’ roll is far from dead. Led by the indomitable Sully Erna, Godsmack turned October 19 into a night of pure sonic anarchy, and we were there to capture the chaos.
The atmosphere was electric long before the lights dimmed. As fans gathered, eyes were glued to a curtain that shielded the stage. On it, Mix Master Mike’s video cameo set the night’s tone, scratching through a playlist of classic rock gems. But the curtain was mere foreplay; when it finally dropped, Sully Erna and Co. erupted into “When Legends Rise,” and the arena morphed into a frenzied temple of head-banging disciples.
But Godsmack was just heating up—quite literally. As they roared into “1000hp,” pyrotechnics blasted into the air. Flames soared sky-high, reflecting the energy of a crowd that’s come to expect nothing less from a Godsmack gig.
What makes this tour special? Dubbed “The Best of Times World Tour,” the band is celebrating 25 years since their eponymous debut album rocked the airwaves back in ’98. The tour also champions their latest—and possibly last—studio effort, “Lighting Up The Sky.” The band feels they’ve reached a career point where the stage, rather than the studio, will be their playground, and judging by the crowd’s rapturous response, no one’s complaining.
The setlist was a balanced cocktail of old and new. After giving us a taste of their latest album with a trio of tracks, Godsmack delved into their treasure trove of hits. Classics like “Something Different,” “Keep Away,” and “Cryin’ Like a Bitch” tore through the speakers, followed by the behemoth anthems “Awake” and “Voodoo.” Erna kept the crowd’s spirits high, not only through his music but with his vibrant interaction. A Solo cup filled with tequila made its way from the stage to a lucky audience member, courtesy of a roadie Sully humorously dubbed “El Guavo.”
Yet, the crown jewel of the night was the iconic drum battle, Batalla de los tambores, between Sully and drummer Shannon Larkin. Watching these two seasoned musicians challenge each other was not just an exhibition of skill, but a love letter to the unadulterated joy of rock music.
Closing the night, the encore featured a touching rendition of “Under Your Scars.” This song led to the creation of Sully’s Scars Foundation, aimed at tackling mental health issues. It was a poignant moment, rounding off a show that had delivered both sonic blasts and emotional resonance.
The evening was also fired up by impressive opening acts. Jason Hook’s new Canadian outfit, Flat Black, delivered a rip-roaring set that had the crowd on its feet. Michigan-based I Prevail kept the adrenaline pumping, inciting circle pits that captured the evening’s wild spirit.
In a world where the phrase “rock is dead” is tossed around far too lightly, Godsmack’s incendiary performance was a testament to the genre’s enduring pulse. They gave us a night of ear-splitting riffs, heart-pounding drums, and a connection with the crowd that turned the arena into a communal celebration of rock’s glorious power.
And as we left Budweiser Gardens, one thing was abundantly clear: whenever Godsmack graces this city again, London will be more than ready for another round of mayhem.
All photos by Dan Boshart