Nickelback's rock refresher

ROB WILLIAMS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 PM ET

WINNIPEG -- Remember when arena rock shows were about having fun and watching stuff blow up?

Nickelback do.

The former Hanna, Alta., residents seem to be on a mission to bring back the rock 'n' roll spectacles of old with a blinding light show, concussion bombs and massive pyrotechnic display, which suited the sold-out crowd of 12,500 at the Winnipeg Arena last night just fine.

Entering the stage to a blast of explosions, the quartet -- vocalist-guitarist Chad Kroeger, guitarist Ryan Peake, bassist Mike Kroeger and drummer Ryan Vikedal -- emerged in a haze of fog and a rain of fire playing the Metallica-worthy riff of Flat on the Floor, off their new album, The Long Road.

The crowd treated the band like conquering heroes, something acknowledged early on by frontman Kroeger, who noted Winnipeg was one of the first cities who supported the band when they were still playing bars.

"Thanks for making a very big dream come true for four kids from a small town," he said.

The band alternated between older fare like Breathe and Leader of Men with new tracks like Someday and Do This Anymore.

The stage show was a spectacle of light and fire, with each explosion greeted with a massive roar of approval from the crowd.

Their show may have grown, but there is nothing pretentious about these guys: they still like their beer and they dress in T-shirts and jeans, coming across like many in the crowd

The music is unpretentious as well. It's straight-up melodic hard rock with a roughness and distortion that comes across better live than on disc. If the band could figure out how to capture their live sound in the studio they might be able to shake off some criticisms of being just another generic post-grunge act. And besides, Kroeger knows a thing or two about writing a hook.

They also come across heavier in a live setting with new songs, such as Because of You, having more in common with some thrash metal bands than groups like Creed. They even tipped their hats to Metallica with a short version of The Four Horsemen.

Kroeger told the crowd how much being in Winnipeg meant to them and urged fans to throw their bras on stage to be signed by the group and auctioned for charity. At press time there were more than a dozen hanging from the drumkit. Now that's rock 'n' roll.

Staind and Three Days Grace opened the show with different variations on confessional power-angst.

JAM! Rating: 4 out of 5

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