MTS Centre, Winnipeg - August 6, 2007

DAVID SCHMEICHEL -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:59 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- Do you like your rock 'n' roll big, dumb and loud?

Yeah, us neither -- (not usually, anyway) -- but sometimes it's nice to just shut your brain off for a while, right?

That's why you're not going to catch us taking the easy road and ragging on Alberta hard-rockers Nickelback like all the other critics who've helped turn them into one of the most reviled bands on the planet.

Oh sure, the tunes are sophomoric (and repetitive, and cliched, and a wee bit sexist), but so is KISS, and you don't see people calling for Gene Simmons' head on a platter.

No, Nickelback -- with their tried-and-true hybrid of bar-band post-grunge and heavy metal -- are clearly doing something right, and their show at MTS Centre last night was a perfectly enjoyable blast of rock 'n' roll excess (providing you didn't try to over-think things, that is).

At any rate, it was hard not to pay attention to Chad Kroeger and Co. once they took to the stage, partly because Kroeger has a habit of screaming all his between-song banter, and partly because the band punctuates nearly everything he says with near deafening pyro-explosions.

A rapid-fire succession of such blasts heralded the band's arrival, as Kroeger -- adopting his trademark axe-wielding stance -- tore through show opener Animals, which ended with an effect that made it look like the entire drum riser was ablaze.

By the time the smoke cleared, the band was churning out the sleazy power chords of Woke Up This Morning, and Kroeger even found time to indulge in a bit of comedy before trotting out the rock-radio ballad Photograph.

"It's nice to be back in Canada," he said by way of introducing the song, which was inspired by his own small-town upbringing. "It's nice to be able to sit down in a pub or a lounge and order a Caesar, and have them bring you a drink, not a salad." Actually, Kroeger -- who tends to attract the brunt of the critical derision -- turned out to be an affable smart-ass all through the show, whether sharing vocal duties with bandmate Ryan Peake on Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting, giving a video shout-out to slain Pantera axeman Dimebag Darrell, or making it through the dippy inspirational number If Everyone Cared (with its lame cried-lied-died rhyme scheme) without cracking himself up.

We coulda' done without all the screaming, but hey -- nobody's perfect.

Earlier, opening act Yellowcard turned in a 40-minute set of easy-to-digest pop-punk, much of which -- like the punchy anthem Light Up the Sky --benefited greatly from the inclusion of violin player Sean Mackin.

The Florida quintet even gave all the local boys in the crowd a little tip to help them "seal the deal" with their lady-friends (and we're pretty sure they weren't talking about real estate). "You turn to her and say, 'Baby, I wrote this song for you,' " said frontman Ryan Key, before launching into a solo version of the Ocean Avenue ballad Only One.

Neat trick -- but why do we get the feeling it doesn't work quite as well with Nickelback songs?


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