November 10, 2016 Sully Erna Mesmerizes The Space at Westbury, NY 11-1-16
Widely recognized as the founder and Lead Vocalist of multi-Platinum selling Hard Rock band Godsmack, Sully Erna is a musician that has traveled a long, windy road. Spending most of his life looking to find the right project, Erna decided to take destiny into his own hands in 1995 when he stepped out from behind the drumkit to become vocalist of his own band, the aforementioned Godsmack. A move that came with great risk, but unlimited potential, it all paid off as Godsmack quickly went from selling CDs from out of the back of their trunk to darlings of the international Hard Rock scene by 1998. Consistent in their approach through the years, each record has seen Erna and company show aggressive, guitar-driven Rock, but showing growth as musicians as well.
Releasing a compelling memoir of his life’s accounts leading up to Godsmack’s break into the mainstream, 2007’s The Paths We Choose invited readers to take a glimpse at a different side of Erna. With this introspective look into the frontman’s world, he struck even more curiosity with the release of his debut solo record in 2010, Avalon. While many have initially thought it would just be Godsmack-lite, they soon found out Erna had yet another side to his music personality; a side that included dynamic, natural song progressions with textured elements from non-traditional Rock instruments such as cello, mandolin, and flute. Supporting Avalon with various intimate concerts through late 2010 into 2013, Erna soon returned to the grind with Godsmack for the recording and touring of 1000hp in 2014 and 2015, leaving many to wonder, was his solo experiment over? A plausible question, seeing many artists do in fact release one solo record and are done. Thankfully, Erna’s itch to express the other side of his songwriting saw the release of his follow-up on September 30, 2016 when he dropped Hometown Life. An album which broke into the US Billboard 200, Erna launched a month long solo tour in celebration of the release on October 26th with dates lined up all the way through November 23rd.
Taking to the road with his acoustic guitar, Guitarists Chris Lester and Tim Theriault, along with his dog Harley, Erna arrived at The Space at Westbury in New York on Tuesday, November 1st. A chill autumn night, fall was certainly in the air as a generous size crowd anxiously entered the theater. A venue he last visited on December 11, 2014, Erna was welcomed back with open arms as everyone took their seats with the show kicking off just after the 8 PM as an introduction video played. Explaining the effects of sound and music, this would lay the foundation for Erna’s wrap around theme – the emotional experience of music. Taking position center stage, in laid back fashion, Erna sat on a stool under the spotlight as he and his band moved into the opening, ambient song of his self-titled debut, “Avalon.” Immediately creating a relaxed atmosphere with the sound of delicate acoustic guitars and passionate vocals, Erna moved quickly into “Sinner’s Prayer.” Two moody tracks, Erna lightened it up a bit with newer song “Your Own Drum,” a piece about following one’s own aspirations, regardless of outside noise. Quite inspiring, while Erna joked that his songs are of a darker nature, but sometimes light can be found in the darkest of places. This in mind, his affectionate “Eyes of a Child” followed, and it was quite an emotional ride as visuals of children suffering, sick and hungry, played in the backdrop. Thought-provoking, it was a reminder of the tragedy that plagues innocent children around the global daily.
Tugging on the audience’s heartstrings, Erna’s interactions in between the songs kept spirits high as he joked often and showcased his colorful personality. Not taking away from the music one bit with the playful banter, Erna gifted two more Hometown Life songs with “Don’t Comfort Me” and “Falling To Black,” offering more insight into finding tranquility in life’s triumphs, as well as pitfalls. The yin to the yang, one can not have one without the other, and Erna’s music is explicit of such feelings as his voice brought each lyric to life. Smiling and continuing to play with the crowd, Erna admitted he is in a good place in life right now. Conversation that made the evening that much more intimate, Erna then did the signature cover of Alice in Chains’ “Nutshell” as images of fallen musicians dressed the backdrop, including The Doors’ Jim Morrison, The Who’s Keith Moon, Janis Joplin, and of course Layne Staley, just to name a few. Another touching moment in the midst of the show, “Blue Skies” saw Erna shift to piano as he stroked the keys and continued to sing with a great deal of passion and procession. Often closing his eyes during the performance of each song, it was easy to see Erna was lost in the music, and this was a constant sensation as he went into “Broken Road” and “Father of Time.”
Taking yet another break to keep the room loose, Erna praised Lester and Theriault, who stood on each side of him to help add richness to the music. Messing around with Lester, he told the audience the guitarist is a bit of a geek and could probably play any Classic Rock song on demand. Putting Lester up to the challenge, Erna requested fans to shout out a song, but unfortunately most of the cuts people requested were pretty standard, including Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Then, Lester was prompted to recite Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall (Part 2),” to which he passed with flying colors as he played to each nuance to the track, all while Erna provided a beat on his acoustic guitar and Theriault interjected keys and bass. Quite a fun improvisation, everyone applauded before settling down for perhaps one of Erna’s most beautiful solo tracks, “My Light.” A song he wrote about his daughter, Skylar, a timeline video from her early childhood until present day unfolded behind Erna as he sang the heartfelt words loudly. A touching moment, anyone with a child of their own felt chills, no doubt relating the feelings to themselves.
Shifting the mood once again, Erna returned to the theme of sound waves and their effect on human emotions. Talking about the endless universe and the unknowns of life, Erna’s insightful thoughts on what makes us who we are was captivating. Explaining that music notes are nothing more than sound waves and vibrations, he proved his point with a open note on his guitar, segueing perfectly into Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” Fitting like a missing puzzle piece into the setlist, everyone applauded as Erna and company dished out “Different Kind of Tears.” Seeming as if mostly every path had been taken during the night, let us not forget, would there be room for some Godsmack? Feeling the good vibrations of the audience and feeding off it, Erna felt there was as he offered “Running Blind” before 2004’s “Touché.” Two flawless Godsmack cuts, Erna ended the night with a riveting performance of “Until Then” on piano before a split cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and The Beatles “Hey Jude.” Inviting everyone to sing along with the closing of the latter, voices filled the air and Erna’s point was driven right to the soul of each and everyone one standing about the unknown effects of music.
Yet another exceptional show, Sully Erna proves why he is no one-trick pony. His musical talents and introspective songs are something not only Godsmack fans can enjoy, but anyone who loves good music. He will wrap up this current solo run outside his hometown on November 23rd in Boston, Massachusetts, but there are plenty more shows to be seen, so do not hesitate, get out and be inspired.