Nickelback has been a big, arena-sized rock band for the better part of a decade. Now it's starting to act like one.
The multi-platinum Canadian quartet's show in support of its sixth studio album, 2008's "Dark Horse," marks its first real foray into big-time rock 'n' roll visual spectacle -- at least the kind befitting a group that's sold more than 27 million albums and who's last release, 2005's "All the Right Reasons," set all sorts of marks for chart longevity. On stage in Detroit frontman Chad Kroeger cheerfully referred to it as "silliness," but the pyrotechnic-laden 110-minute show wrapped a new veneer around Nickelback's meat-and-potatoes pop-rock mix, adding some eye-candy to the parade of ear-catching hooks that are the band's stock in trade.
Kroeger even declared himself "a kid in a candy show" early in the show, and the 17-song set boasted a confectionery kind of random variety. Ushered on stage by three gun-shot style concussions, the clad-in-black Nickelback regaled the sellout crowd of 17,500 (including Kid Rock and many fans from the band's homeland, situated just across the river) with both expected hits, mixing hard rockers ("Something in Your Mouth," "Burn it to the Ground," "Animals") and hits ("Photograph," "Far Away," "How You Remind Me," "Someday") and tossing in some surprises. Shaun Morgan from opening act Seether joined Nickelback to sing Filter's "Hey Man, Nice Shot" -- and was chided by Kroeger for ringing up $1,800 worth of lap dances on his credit card the previous night -- while guitarist Ryan Peake covered Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" during the first icons.
Fireworks and flames exploded from the stage throughout the night, and four of the band's crew members came on stage armed with "T-shirt sniper cannons (sic)" to fire souvenirs into the crowd while Nickelback played a portion of Metallica's "Sad But True." A large video wall towered behind the band, while a runway took the group out to a smaller second stage on which it played unplugged-style versions of the country-flavored "This Afternoon" and "Rockstar."
Drummer Daniel Adair, meanwhile, played a late-set solo on a moving, rising, rotating hydraulic drum kit worthy of Motley Crue's Tommy Lee. And Kroeger, whose between-song chattiness was similar (if somewhat more profane) to country mate Celine Dion's, openly and shamelessly lobbied auxiliary musician Tim Dawson to stay with his band and not switch to Alice In Chains, at one point even serenading him KWS' sappy 1992 pop hit "Please Don't Go."
There were sober and sentimental moments as well. "Photograph" and "Rockstar" were both accompanied by a smooth montage of vintage photos, while the socially conscious "If Everyone Cared" featured video tributes to U2 frontman Bono, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and Nelson Mandela. But a good time was preeminent in Nickelback's mind, with Kroeger even mulling the cost of 17,000 Jaeger bombs for his fans. They surely would have taken them (even, we expect, the underage ones) but they were more than happy enough with both the musical and special effects bombs Nickelback set off on stage.