Walking down to the O2 Academy in Birmingham for this blockbuster night of rock, I was greeted by the longest queue to get into the venue I have witnessed there for a very long time. Everyone seemed excited and in fine fettle for an evening with Godsmack and The Raven Age.
Godsmack – The Raven Age
O2 Academy, Birmingham – 12 October 2022
Words and Photography: Andy Shaw
The Raven Age
First on were the brilliant The Raven Age, who produced a stellar 30-minute set. They are an English band formed in London in 2009 by guitarists Dan Wright and George Harris, son of Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris. They opened with The Day The World Stood Still from their 2019 Conspiracy Album, and their high energy and blistering twin guitars had the Birmingham crowd eating out their hands.
Front man Matt James asked the crowd, “are you ok? If you are, scream for me,” then launching into Salem’s Fate and straight into Seventh Heaven, which initially slowed the pace momentarily until the song kicked in. By now, they were in full swing with guitarists George Harris and Tommy Gentry together with bass Matt Cox looking like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.
“This is the last night of Godsmack’s British tour, and we have been honoured to be part of it,” Matt said. The Raven Age launched into Angel In Disgrace before finishing their blistering set with Fleur De Lis. Keep your eye on these guys because they are going places.
The scene was set for legendary Bostonian rockers Godsmack. To introduce them on the backdrop was a short film/remix of Queen’s We Will Rock You by Beastie Boys Mix Master Mike.
Godsmack arrived on stage playing the title track of their When Legends Rise 2019 album, then were straight into Keep Away from their first album. Bass player Robbie Merrill beat his fist against his heart as a sign of his recognition to the crowd. Without hesitation, they went into Cryin’ Like A Bitch from The Oracle album, and the crowd were at a fever pitch.
Frontman Sully Erna said, “It’s been a long time, Birmingham. Glad we are back in your part of the world.” Unforgettable from When Legends Rise finished with some brilliant work from Sully on his talk box.
“Birmingham, are we awake yet?” Sully asked before launching into, you guessed it, Awake, the title track of their second album, which maintained a frantic pace and the crowd lapping up every second of it. Guitarist Tony Rombola had a low profile on stage but helped keep the songs flowing.
Then into another album title track, the brilliant 1000hp with Sully and Robbie swapping places and looking like they were having a thoroughly brilliant time.
“We a testosterone-filled band,” Sully said, “and you guys here look like you work out, but you need a job. So not forgetting the ladies, we are gonna make it look like a real rock show. Get your wife, best friend, and girls on your shoulders and make it look like an ’80s rock show.” At this point, ladies appeared all over the crowd, being lifted onto men’s shoulders.
Sully continued, “Girls, close your eyes and think about the asshole who stabbed you in the back.” He then asked for all the lights to be turned off and got everyone to illuminate the room using the torches on their phones, which looked really spectacular. Godsmack then played another track from the album 1000hp, Something Different.
A stunning version of the Voodoo from their IV album followed, and Godsmack were now in full flow. Sully asked the Birmingham crowd to put their hands in the air, and the venue duly obliged. “Now that’s the Birmingham, England, I know,” he said.
An epic Whatever, from their first album was followed by set closer and brand new single, Surrender. This was only the third time they had played Surrender, a song which will feature on their new album Lighting Up The Sky, due in February 2023.
Returning for an encore, Sully Erna played the keyboards with a few bars of Adele’s Someone Like You before explaining about Godsmacks non-profit charity, The Scars Foundation. This was established by Sully Erna and Godsmack to help raise awareness of the mental health issues that so many are faced with today.
He explained that the song Under Your Scars “was about these causes and please remember Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell and Amy Winehouse because this affects all of us, and we are trying to do something about it.”
Sully started the song on piano before the rest of the band swooped in after the first verse to make this a really emotional and supercharged version of the track.
Godsmack finished with two blockbuster versions. Bulletproof from When Legends Rise had the Academy crowd swaying their arms, which looked an amazing sight.
Before finishing, Sully said, “we have had a great time and hope to play some bigger stages next time, so tell everyone to come along.” The night closed with the awesome I Stand Alone, a majestic finish to a brilliant night in Birmingham.