Gig Review: Godsmack / The Raven Age – Manchester Academy (9th October 2022)

After a slight challenge gaining access to the venue for myself and the photographers, we finally made our way inside Manchester Academy just in time for Londoners The Raven Age to take the stage. Seeing the amount of The Raven Age t-shirts throughout the growing crowd, it was clear that people were here for more than just the main event. I have a feeling some may have been slightly disappointed with the fact that even though there was only two band on the line up, The Raven Age only had time to perform 5 songs.

The Raven Age (c) Jack Barker

Opening with “The Day the World Stood Still” from the band’s second album Conspiracy, you could instantly see how confident the entire band was on stage. The dynamic between the members showed that they were in sync with each other throughout every song, from head banging to striking power poses on their monitors.

Now, I think at this point in my gig experiences, it is written into the script of every band I have seen, and lead vocalist Matt James was no exception to the rule, stating that Manchester was their favourite city to play, which of course received a massive cheer from the crowd. With James and Matt Cox on bass and backing vocals keeping the crowd animated with calls of “Manchester, Scream!” and “Let me see those hands!” there was no time for lengthy conversations between each song. Acknowledging their shorter than normal set, “Fleur de Lis” was their final song , before the band posed for a picture with the crowd and exiting the stage.

A very secretive set change behind a massive white curtain left the crowd in suspense while the stage was being prepared for the headline act, Godsmack from Lawrence, Massachusetts. Having done a little research post gig, I think there may have been some technical issues displaying a projected video during the opening music, as in Glasgow there was a projection of Mix Master Mike from the Beastie Boys introducing the band on the curtain. I don’t think this had any negative effect on the crowd seeing how much everyone was enjoying singing along to the remixed Queen/Aerosmith/Beatles medley that was played during the intro. I was impressed with just how loud the crowd were for the first song of the set, “When Legends Rise”, which kicked in the second the curtain dropped.

I always spend a little time watching the crowd at a gig, and I was not disappointed in seeing the aggressive facial expressions during “Cryin’ Like a Bitch” being one of Godsmack’s more strongly-worded songs.

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After a quick pause for lead vocalist and guitarist Sully Erna to state they were “Very happy to be here with you people that don’t have masks on your faces” after saying “It’s been too long with all the bullshit that’s been going on for the last three years”. Announcing that they have a brand-new album coming in February, Erna was adamant that this would be everyone’s favourite, before beginning “Unforgettable” off their 2018 album.

Godsmack (c) Jack Barker

Throughout the entire set, you could tell there were some seasoned Godsmack followers in the crowd, as all it took was one look from bass player Robbie Merrill and hands were raised in the air waving their rock horns. The intro to “1000HP” began and instantly the crowd were ready to sing. Just as Erna’s vocals were about to kick in, all music stopped but with the crowd singing the first few lines incredibly loud. Erna joked “Haha you sing it, motherfuckers” before the band seamlessly carried on with the song.

With a fairly lengthy speech that basically ended with a dedication to the ladies for the next song, Erna encouraged all the men in the audience to lift the women onto their shoulders, with a “Hi there, Honey” for the first lady to appear above the crowd. He also had all the stage and house lights shut off telling everyone to light the room with the phones that he (correctly) pointed out were normally out during their performance anyway.

We were then treated to the band’s first ever performance of “Surrender” which is the first single off their upcoming album Lighting Up the Sky. The crowd were obviously pleased with the new track as we saw the first crowd surfers of the night.

Godsmack (c) Jack Barker

In a scene reminiscent of the music video for “Unforgettable” where the band give music lessons to a group of school children before taking them to New York to perform ahead of one of their gigs, Erna invited two young children onto the stage during “Whatever”. He told the audience, “These kids are the future of rock n’ roll” before getting them to sign along with the chorus of the track.

The band having left the stage for a quick breather, a keyboard was brought onto stage for the start of the encore and the whole venue cheered in anticipation for the song that was to come next. Arguably one of their most popular songs “Under Your Scars” was up next, only after Erna admitted that he was so drunk (but still managed to play without error!). He introduced the song by explaining about their Scars Foundation, asking the crowd to share the information with anyone who may be struggling in life.

Picking up the pace for the final two songs of the night, “Bulletproof” and “I Stand Alone” were the perfect end to the evening. With Erna promising that if everyone in the crowd tells a friend about the band, they promise they will be back soon at an even “bigger venue, with a more impressive stage set up and a bunch of pyro so we can blow some shit up!”.

I can’t wait to see this, so please spread the word.

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Pics by Jack Barker Photography

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