JACKSONVILLE, Florida — With unpleasant aesthetics and laughable acoustics, the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Coliseum stands alongside Philadelphia's infamous Veterans Stadium as one of the most maligned venues in the country — which is why later this year the old 8,000-seat arena has a date with the wrecking ball.
Tuesday night's bill of hard rock allowed the developing Jacksonville band Cold the chance to play the room for the first time, and it offered the established Boston band Godsmack to play the room for the last time. Both bands have just finished new records — Godsmack's recently hit the streets and Cold's will be out soon — and both played well-received sets of new and old material to the crowd.
After walking onstage to the familiar strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" (a nice hometown touch), Cold frontman Scooter Ward began his 45-minute plunge into the depths of moody metal. The band is getting more melodic all the time, as evidenced by the snappy new three-minute single "Stupid Girl," but Cold still get over more on atmosphere than anything else.
Tall and bald, Ward cut a mighty imposing figure up there, especially since he refused to let the lighting guys shine anything bright in his direction. The band played its entire set in the shadows that night and instead let the spotlight fall onto their giant spider backdrop.
New tunes like "Remedy" and the aforementioned "Stupid Girl" didn't sound quite as polished in concert as they do on the band's third full-length, Year of the Spider, and part of that could've been because the group hasn't been playing them live for very long. The other reason could've been the coliseum itself, which has a special knack for making vocals reverberate and turning guitars into mud.
Ward was gracious though, telling fans, "It's very cool for us to play in this place where we saw all these bands and got inspired," and the audience responded warmly to the band, continuing to cheer until the set-closing rocker "Just Got Wicked" ended with the requisite drumstick tosses into the crowd.
Godsmack began their 90-minute portion of the show with a video message supporting U.S. troops. Given that their song "Awake" plays on Navy recruiting commercials, you probably could've guessed where the band stood on the issue, but singer Sully Erna verbally reinforced his admiration for the American armed forces after taking the stage.
Erna, the only bandmember who spoke during the concert, is certainly driving this particular musical tank. He sings, he plays occasional guitar and he's also a mean drummer. Past concerts have found him playing a couple of drums off to the side, but on Tuesday he got his own full kit at the back of the arena. Teasing Rush's "Yyz" and Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," Erna battled it out with three other drummers on the big stage in the kind of instrumental metal jam not often seen these days.
Still, his main role was singing (or screaming, depending on the tune) over his band's vaguely mystical music. With (usually) only one guitar and bass providing the crunch, Godsmack's music had plenty of space in it, making Erna's role all the more crucial.
He was up to the task though, on new songs and old. His voice has a good deal of stamina, and his hard-knuckled delivery found him dedicating one particularly violent song to "all the Saddams and Osamas out there."
Unlike Cold, Godsmack are more interested in dynamics than mood. (The mood was pretty much consistent — angry, and determined to do something about it.) And so, with uniformed fire and rescue folks standing by, Godsmack shot off fireball after fireball, timing the pyro to particular riffs or drum fills and delighting the teens and twentysomethings packing the general-admission floor.
The big hit "Sick of Life" came as the encore ("Voodoo," earlier in the set, featured sequined belly dancers), and soon after that Godsmack left the stage.
Godsmack's national tour is scheduled to continue through early summer, concentrating primarily in Southern and Midwestern markets before ending June 21 in Washington state.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.