Lynx Stadium, Ottawa - July 5, 2007

ANN MARIE McQUEEN - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:34 AM ET

OTTAWA - They weren't joking when they warned about high decibel levels at last night's massive Nickelback show.

For those on and around Lynx Stadium's covered-up pitcher's mound, it was not a stretch to say

the testosterone-stirring, power-rock Alberta quartet known as Nickelback nearly broke eardrums and burst eyeballs for more than 90 minutes.

It was an old-fashioned rock show -- pyro, onstage fireballs, deafening drums, hard-and-fast guitar licks and heartfelt singalongs -- for a near-sellout crowd of 14,000.

Raspy-voice, cocky-strutting guitarist/frontman Chad Kroeger was in fine rock star form from the get-go tune, a raucous-sounding Animals from 2005's All The Right Reasons.

"This is about the time when I like to ask a question. One question!" he screamed. "And I want you to answer as loud as you possibly can. Are we going to have a good f---ing time!?"

One guess what they said.

The last time the venue saw this kind of action was July 19, 1998, when fans packed in for the Stardust Picnic featuring Blue Rodeo, Great Big Sea, the Waltons and Weeping Tile, and christened the then-JetForm Park as Ottawa's new outdoor concert hall.

Organizers are hoping to rebrand the stadium that way again, though the lack of a permanent stage makes such nights difficult to pull off.

Still, it was a great start. Sure, the Queensway was backed up for kilometres, parking was nearly impossible and a massive line for the stadium's one bank machine prevented a dose of music lovers from properly getting their drink on.

But a massive stage -- the largest out there, special-ordered from Montreal -- one big video screen and a spectrum of clear sightlines makes the park look very promising.

The power evening kicked off with mini-sets by State of Shock and early-2000s success story Puddle of Mud, a New England-based band who are hoping for a comeback with a new single, Famous, and a new album out later this month.

Chris Daughtry, fronting his band Daughtry, properly revved up things for Kroeger and Co. with his Nickelback-esque sound.

The fifth season American Idol fourth runner-up played to the still-gathering crowd with a 45-minute set, including his massive radio hits Home and It's Not Over.

And then there is Nickelback, the band indie fans and music critics alike love to hate, sometimes violently. Yet to witness their screams-of-joy reception last night drives home the point they must be doing something right.

The band has also sold 20 million records and last year was the ninth-highest grossing tour just behind Bon Jovi. So even if you, like a Rolling Stone reviewer once did, liken their sound to "the sonic equivalent of too many unfortunate goatees," it's hard to argue with those kind of numbers.

The thing is, even if you couldn't exactly call them hip, Kroeger, brother/bassist Mike Kroeger, guitarist Ryan Peake and new drummer Daniel Adair really do know how to give 'er'

The night featured plenty in the way of the kind of big, grainy power ballads the group is known for like the nostalgic Photograph, Savin' Me and Far Away, (and the charity fundraiser If Everyone Cared, accompanied by poignant political messages).

There were several thrashily reworked covers, such as Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting.

In between metallic blasters like Woke Up This Morning and massive hits like Someday and Nickelback's calling card, This is How You Remind Me, the group shot hot dogs from cannons and tossed beers into the crowd, paid tribute to Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell and generally acted like the "f---ing travelling circus" Kroeger himself joked they are.

Sure, Nickelback is touring on a two-year-old album rocking a well-worn, F-bomb favouring formula, and it's not at all cool to like them. But the band itself, and more importantly, their fans, could care less.


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