An Evening With Godsmack is included as a bonus DVD with the band's new greatest hits CD, Good Time Bad Times…Ten Years Of Godsmack. Godsmack are certainly not the first band that comes to mind when you think of an intimate, unplugged performance, but their 2004 acoustic offering, The Other Side, certainly proved the naysayers wrong. Prior to that, you pretty much knew what to expect with each new Godsmack release, and that is some of the most straightforward, no-nonsense, hard rock in the business. This excellent new video joins their acoustic album in proving that Godsmack do indeed have "another side".
In 2004, Godsmack hit the road opening for the mighty Metallica, but they also managed to squeeze in several unplugged shows during the tour, which allowed them to highlight their acoustic Other Side. This DVD captures one of those gigs – an intimate, 12-song, mostly-acoustic show that the band performed at the Las Vegas House of Blues.
This performance has a very Alice In Chains Unplugged kind of vibe to it, which will probably lead to more "rip-off" accusations from all of the Godsmack detractors out there. The stage is adorned with numerous candles, and the lighting is kept to a minimum to create the intimate mood. Each of the band members perform sitting down, and with the exception of the bass guitar, the instruments are all unplugged.
Lee Richards, who was the original Godsmack guitarist before they hit it big, also sits in on acoustic guitar to help beef up the arrangements. He is currently a member of the band Dropbox, who were the first signing to Sully Erna's new label Realign Records. Sully introduces Richards with a heartfelt explanation as to why he left the band, which was due to an ex-girlfriend showing up at his door one day with the six year old son he never knew he had. Richards eventually told the band he had to quit so that he could go out and support his newfound son.
The set is only about an hour long and features just nine songs. Some of that time is eaten up by a few question and answer segments with the audience. Sully hands out a few ground rules prior to taking the first question: 1) Do not ask where they got the name of the band; 2) No questions about religion; and 3) "If you ask anything stupid, you go in the penalty box for two minutes!" It didn't take long for one drunken dude in the upper decks to get so penalized, when he earnestly blurted out the very profound question, "I wanna know how you guys kick ass SO hard!?
The performance kicks off with one of the more obscure tracks from the Awake album called "Trippin'." The song is pretty forgettable in its original form, but was given a fresh new makeover this night, which kind of reminded me of an acoustic "Dazed and Confused." With The Other Side album, Godsmack already showed that they know how to turn out some killer acoustic arrangements, and this performance reinforced that in spades. "Re-align," from the Faceless album, has never sounded better, and "Running Blind," an excellent new song, chock full of gorgeous harmony vocals, is used to reveal some of the bands darkest moments together.
"Serenity," "Voodoo," and "Spiral" are all dark and moody songs that were each ripe for the acoustic makeover, and they brought in a foreboding atmosphere over the middle portion of the set. This gloomy cloud was eventually lifted by a loose jam session that followed, which was led off by a short, funk-fueled bass solo from Robbie Merrill. With Sully sitting behind his percussion kit, he and drummer Shannon Larkin followed with an extended drum and percussion jam, which led into a surprisingly good acoustic rendition of their heavy metal anthem "Keep Away."
The highlight of the show begins with the encore for me. "Touche" is an original song that was recorded for The Other Side album, where the band enlisted the vocal contributions of Dropbox frontman John Kosko on both the album, and this performance. Sully and Kosko take turns on lead vocals as well as combining for some extraordinary harmonies. The song is also anchored by a simple, yet catchy as hell, guitar riff from the hands of Tony Rombola.
To close out the show, the band tackles an old, obscure blues number, "Reefer Headed Woman," which was first breathed new life by Aerosmith on their forgotten 1979 album, Night In The Ruts. Kosko stays on board for this one and simply hits it out of the park. He possess the perfect bluesy, hard rock voice for a song like this. Rombola performs the entire song on electric guitar, which allows him to throw down a killer fuzzed out guitar solo at the end. Godsmack should have included this one on their most recent IV album, since it was far better than the majority of those songs.
The production value of this DVD is top notch, which makes me wonder why they didn't release it separately a few years ago. They could have added some good bonus material to make up for the short running time. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is so crisp and well balanced that it sounds like the band is playing right in front of you. The picture looks superb and the camera work places you right in the front row. There were no bonus features, but hey, this DVD was the bonus feature.
If you have ever considered Godsmack's music to be just a little too heavy and rough around the edges for your taste, then I encourage you to give this DVD a try. My wife used to fall into that category – I couldn't get her to sit through half of the band's Changes DVD if my life had depended on it – but she absolutely loved this new unplugged DVD. Then again, you will still have to buy the new greatest hits CD to get it. But, it's well worth it.
03. Running Blind
07. Keep Away
09. Reefer Headed Woman