Sully Erna – Riviera Theater, Tonawanda, NY June 14, 2011

Review/photos – Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.

Tonawanda, NY – Godsmack frontman Sully Erna performed an intimate solo show at the ornate Riviera Theater, in Tonawanda, last Tuesday.  The 90 minute performance proved that the 43 year old Erna is much more than just a frontman of a modern rock band.  And while so many of his peers are unwilling to stray from their proven and safe formulaic, generic, cookie cutter stylings,  Erna flourishes creatively when he digresses from the expected.   He has transcended to an accomplished multi-dimensional musician who is on the brink of musical brilliance.  Erna’s new CD, “Avalon,” is reminiscent of the great classic mood rock albums of the 70’s, and his live renditions of these tracks take the listener to another level.  This performance, for the nearly sold out crowd, was truly a musical journey for mind, body and soul.

Erna was backed by a virtuoso, seven piece band – hailing from the New England area, which consisted of percussionist, Niall Gregory, from the band Dead Can Dance, the elegant, dynamic and multi-octave range singer, Lisa Guyer, Boston Conservatory  graduate cellist, Irina Chirnova, guitarist, Tim Theriault, keyboardist, Chris Decato, bassist/guitarist, Chris Lester, and drummer, David Stefanelli.  The stage was crammed with musicial instruments, a throw rug, multiple sets of candles, and a big video screen, which enhanced the songs and helped create a cool and surreal ambience.

The theme of the evening was simply music, and the powerful and positive effects it has on the human body.  Before Erna and band hit the stage, a video played explaining that music is nothing more than a series of vibrations.  The question was then asked, “Do you hear music or do you feel it?“  Erna then entered the stage to a standing ovation, and proceeded with the title track, “Avalon,” the opening track to his 2010 solo album.  He followed with “Sinners Prayer,” and then went to the grand piano for an intense, haunting version of “Broken Road.”

Sully 2011 a

Erna then returned to the center stage for “The Departed,” this song featured the elegant background vocals by his solo band’s co-vocalist, Lisa Guyer.  Afterwards, Erna proceeded with the emotional and poignant song “My Light,” which addresses the joys of being a father.  The captive audience watched in total silence as pictures of Erna’s daughter, from birth to present, played out on the video screen.  Anyone who has enjoyed the blessings of parenthood, couldn’t help, but to be moved by this.

The epic, Native American influenced song “Cast Out,” followed with Erna slamming on the bongo drum located near center stage.  Erna then changed the mood a bit, by returning to the piano, for an impressive classical solo.  The group proceeded with “Until Then,” which he dedicated to all the men and women in the US Armed Forces.  This song is absolutely brilliant, and even more emotional live.  This track really showcased Erna’s powerful and stunning vocals.  Several times, the audience voiced their approval of the patriotic images that flashed on the stage screen.  This was then followed by an entertaining bongo duet between percussionist David Stefanelli, and Niall Gregory.  Afterwards, the beautiful Irina Chirnova dazzled the audience with classical cello solo.

Segueing into the track “The Rise,” Erna, once again, took to the bongos, and left all of the vocals to Guyer, who stunned the crowd again, with her amazing ability.  Erna returned to center stage for the emotionally heart wrenching “The Eyes of a Child.”  During this track, images of innocent African children, dying of the horrible HIV/AIDS virus, played on the screen.  I commend Erna for devoting time to this misconstrued disease, that has taken so many lives.  Erna and band then ended the show with the profound track “7 Years.”

After a few minutes, Erna came back to the stage, to thank the audience for listening, and supporting his “Avalon” CD.  He then told the audience that he had a gift for us, and proceeded with an acoustic version of the only Godsmack song he performed all evening, “Serenity.”  The crowd went crazy and remained on their feet for the rest of the show, which included an awesome version of the Fleetwood Mac classic, “The Chain,”  in which Erna and Guyer certainly gave Buckingham and Nicks a run for their money.  Erna closed the evening, to the delight of a very happy, and musically satisfied audience, with an audience sing-a-long of the Beatles, “Hey Jude.”

This truly was an amazing show.  While some people may expect that to be said in any ‘concert review,’ this show was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  Sully Erna took the audience on a musical journey, but in doing so, he now embarks on a journey of his own.   This is the beginning of another chapter in Erna’s career.  From here on in, he will be judged by the brilliance of this tour and CD, regardless if it is with Godsmack, or by himself.  But if anyone can meet this challenge, it is most certainly, Sully Erna.

for more on Sully Erna, please visit www.sullyerna.com


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