"THANK YOU!!", Chat Kroger barks into the microphone at the conclusion of each song seemingly trying to out-yell the thousands of twenty-somethings who have packed the Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The audience was at first unsure of his overzealous show of gratitude, but by mid-set were convinced that the Nickelback frontman sincerely appreciated his fans.
After their 2000 release The State was met with luke-warm enthusiasm, Nickelback was in danger of falling into a category with The Tragically Hip and Our Lady Peace as talented Canadian rock acts popular back home, but struggling to be noticed south of the border. Two years and one mega-hit later ("How You Remind Me" recently spent its fourth consecutive week as America's #1 single) the quartet from rural Alberta is headlining an American tour sponsored by MTV.
The band wasted no time whipping the crowd into a frenzy, taking the stage shortly after 9pm and immediately kicking into "Breathe". Chad is clearly the act's main attraction, accounting for the scores of scantily clad young ladies pushing their way towards the stage in the festival seating area... but if he notices this, he never lets on.
The 70-minute, 13-song set included seven tracks from Silver Side Up, four from The State, and two as yet unreleased and apparently untitled songs. The first of the new songs which begins, "I love your pants around your knees, I love the dirt that's on your knees", is surely destined for greatness in radio land. Nickelback's familiar stop-and-go rhythm, herky-jerkey tempo, clever lyrics and a melody you'll hum all the way home already has fans eagerly awaiting the next album.
Half way through the set, the audience was treated to a slowed-down, blues-infused version of "Too Bad". During an extended bridge, Chad stepped out onto a platform just above the crowd at stage-left and performed a furious solo on his Les Paul in his now-famous backwards leaning stance.
Nickelback played on a relatively stripped down stage with minimum lighting effects, no multi-media, no smoke and no pyrotechnics. There is no need for smoke and mirrors unless you have something to hide, which this band clearly does not. THANK YOU, Nickelback, for breathing some life back into the slowly dying art of rock and roll.
Default opened, eager to prove that they are more than just a one-hit-wonder. Greeted by an early-arriving crowd curious to find out what else these Canadian rockers have in their arsenal, Default immediately went to work reeling off tracks from their 2001 debut release, The Fallout [TVT Records]. Having charted extremely well with "Wasting My Time" and breaking into radio now with "Deny", today Default are getting the kind of exposure and recognition that most bands work a decade for. With a short set and a limited amount of material with which to work, Default did a credible job and added even more value to an already low ticket price of around 20 bucks. Check them out as headliners after they finish their tour of duty with Nickelback. You won't be wasting your time.