Sully Erna’s Avalon soars at The Riv (2011)


Author/psychedelic aesthete Ken Kesey once described the effects of LSD as “an orgasm behind the eyeballs” and anyone who attended last night’s Sully Erna concert at the Riviera Theatre may have had a similar experience. Unlike other shows you’ll attend this summer, “The Avalon Tour” is formulated to penetrate every ounce of your mind, body and spirit on a level that appeared to have died right along with Sunday drives to the record store. Whether it’s the mystical lyricisms, sepulchral hand drumming, or overall cosmic vision of what the music should be, Erna and his band delivered an unforgettable evening that challenged people to move beyond the limits of their Top-40 sanctuary.

“Avalon,” the album’s title track, kicked things off with a bang as the musicians settled into a groove that would set the tone for the rest of the 90-minute set. Erna’s decision to surround himself with world-class artists really shined through during songs such as “Sinner’s Prayer” and “The Rise,” because the material was able to transcend mere sound to become something much more palpable. Vocalist Lisa Guyer has the alluring stage presence to complement her astonishing four octave range and percussionist Niall Gregory lays the rhythmic foundation for what I hope is going to be an ongoing project.

As for Erna himself, what can you really say?

He’s a gifted, passionate musician who has engineered a great record that will hopefully silence anyone who didn’t think he could venture outside the hard rock genre. His stripped-down vocal on “Broken Road” was an early highlight of the evening, but the emotional climax belonged to a five minute lamentation titled “Eyes of a Child” that was backed by a video montage of innocent children affected by the AIDS virus. Few shows, if any, come equipped with a social conscience, so I’d have to say that the message is what separates “Avalon” from other concerts you’ll see this year.

Just so Godsmack fans wouldn’t leave empty-handed, Erna came out for a gorgeous solo rendition of “Serenity” on a 12-string acoustic guitar that had the crowd clinging to his every word, and, if that wasn’t enough, the band came back to close out the show with Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Before exiting the stage, Erna made a statement regarding the power of music and how the audience could carry the show’s energy over into their own lives, which, in the end, is why we’re all here in the first place.

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