Heavy Metal Night in NJ

Went to see Godsmack at the Arts Center on Friday night with my son and one of his friends. In terms of pure energy, fun, quality of seats, and the theatrics, I'd put it in the top 10 rock shows I've seen. Ever. I was wearing my Sun Microsystems Americas Sales Meeting t-shirt that has a very Godsmack-inspired circular flaming sun logo, and got some double takes from other audience members. Then again, a bit of staggering and swaggering was average for the night, given the volume of {sound, people, beer} packed under the Arts Center cement tent.

The pyrotechnics were simply amazing -- flash pots, bang caps, rows of flame, and 8-10 foot tongues of fire coming up from the metal steps that rimmed the rear of the stage. Sound was as clean as it can be when ear plugs aren't even a question, but even with a 30 decibel drop in sound pressure the vocals were clean, Rombolo's guitar was sharp, and we got as much audible as physical presence from Robbie Merrill on bass.

So what was I doing taking a pair of 12 year olds to a metal concert?

First of all, the content and language (from the band, not the audience) are no worse than anything on prime time TV. Godsmack in 2006 is no worse from a comparative social perspective than KISS was in 1976. But the pyro has improved dramatically.

To a man, they're good musicians. Both of the almost-teens in tow play instruments with varying degrees of amplification. Nothing like seeing the real thing in concert to make you work harder. And we got the real thing -- Sully Erna on drums, harmonica, guitar and vocals; Tony Rombolo bending strings like David Beckham with soccer kicks. Listening to the Godsmack discography, I guessed he was long on effects pedals; turns out I guessed wrong on effects pedals. It was all finger strength -- really impressive to watch up close.

I love Robbie Merrill. The guy wore a beanie on stage under about 50,000 watts of lighting because it's part of his look. He's a hockey blogger as well, so we're kind of six-degrees-of-routing separated cousins. Above all else, he seemed to be having a lot of fun, and that's what music is supposed to be about.

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