Somewhere amidst the pyrotechnics and the air cannon shot "free s***" Canadian rockers Nickelback took the stage on a Saturday night in Peoria, Illinois. Maybe it was the all-too-frequent "Are you having a good time?" shouts from Nickelback leader Chad Kroeger, but I left feeling a large segment of the crowd of nearly 10,000 had enjoyed better times at concerts in the past.
Opening Acts Default and Trapt
The evening in Peoria kicked off with 2 opening acts. Both are veterans of past Nickelback tours. Fellow Canadian band Default bear an uncanny resemblance in sound to the headlining band. Lead vocalist Dallas Smith, in particular, duplicates the arena-filling voice of Chad Kroeger. Default were followed to the stage by California band Trapt. Their smart, sharp rock set turned out to be the highlight of the evening. The band's leader, Chris Brown, demonstrated onstage charisma that easily captured and held the attention of the concert crowd.
Pyrotechnics and the Big Hit
Nickelback took the stage amid a flurry of loud shots and flames in just the first of an abundant display of pyrotechnics. It was an arresting beginning to the show, but, as the primary visual interest of the show, the display eventually got old.
3 songs in, Nickelback uncorked "Photograph", the biggest pop hit single yet of their career, to the delight and eager vocalizing of the crowd. It was accompanied by the expected screen projections of nostalgic photographic memories including the one discussed at the beginning of the song complete with what was "on Joey's head." As Nickelback brought the song to an end, I was left wondering what would be left to top it...that turned out to be a valid concern.
Losing the Crowd
It did not take long to realize that, although an abundance of core Nickelback fans were present, the majority of the crowd were likely drawn by the band's current major hit album All the Right Reasons. As Chad Kroeger and company worked their way through songs that go "way back" the crowd seemed unmoved except for the familiar top 10 hit post-grunge ballads "Someday" and "How You Remind Me." Approximately halfway through Nickelback's set most of those in the crowd with arena seats sat down and rarely felt the need to rise for the rest of the show.
It is my assumption that the majority of a crowd that pays over $40 for 3 hours at a concert venue is expecting entertainment. Unfortunately, it seemed that a large segment of Nickelback's crowd left Peoria feeling their evening was lacking in that area. Some of the trappings of a classic rock concert were evident - the band in jeans and t-shirts with the rock star strut around the stage, Kroeger's arena-filling voice, and an admittedly strong drum solo from the band's newest member, ex-3 Doors Down drummer Daniel Adair.
However, the band's set was short, seemingly the bare minimum at about 70 minutes, for a group of their stature. The only pyrotechnics were created by real fire instead of riveting guitar work. Only one encore was forthcoming, but even that was lost on the crowds that streamed for the doors without waiting to see if an encore was coming. For now, Nickelback blasting from the stereo off their current album is at least as good as the real thing on stage.