Saddledome, Calgary - May 16, 2012

Gerry Krochak, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:36 AM ET

CALGARY - The world needs big, dumb rock shows — it’s a fact. And it’s the reason KISS has existed for nearly 40 years.

And what could be bigger and dumber than four bands, nearly five hours, a plethora of rock radio hits, arena rock anthems and power-balladry all on a massive stage production of lights, smoke, video screens and fire, glorious fire?

Nickelback and its chosen ones on the current Here And Now tour are merely providing an essential service — and the 12,500 punters at the Saddledome last night could not care less what you think.

After all, there’s a certain cachet that goes along with being the most-hated band in rock: Massive record sales, sold-out concert tours, bags of money, women, private jets and luxury coaches — all the key points of Nickelback’s hit single, Rockstar.

But alas, the verbal blood sport of ripping apart the Hanna heroes has lost its allure.

Even in the worldwide music press, such rhetoric has become as challenging as kicking a puppy. After all, they just might be doing something right. Ya’ think?!

Sure, it’s easy to understand why they are so hated: Cliche-ridden, formulaic moustache rock with all of the edges sanded off. Ironically, Nickelback remains one of the biggest bands on the planet for all the same reasons.

As far as big, dumb rock shows go … this was a good one. And as far as the Nickelback live experience goes, fire, booze references, sexual innuendo and more fire has never done them wrong. And the near sellout throng assembled on a sweaty Wednesday evening wasn’t wrong either.

Led by Chad Kroeger — who is still just a prairie hoser at heart — the band had barely walked onstage before the first symphony of fireballs raised the Saddledome temperature from sweaty to, uh, sweatier.

The party-ready mob was on its feet through set-opener and ode to naysayers, This Means War, which quickly segued into Something In Your Mouth (the first, but not last sexual reference of the evening) and the anti-abuse anthem, Never Again, from the multi-platinum-selling Silver Side Up album.

On a mega stage production of catwalks and ramps, and beneath a massive state-of-the art lighting rig and five video screens, Kroeger, dressed head-to-toe in black, bellowed out, “CAL-GAR-EEEEE! What’s goin’ on? It’s gonna be a nice, hot sweaty one at the Dome tonight!”

He wasn’t kidding.

The hits kept acomin’ in the form of the ultra-sappy power ballads Photograph and, later, Someday, but fans in the cheap seats got a better look from the nifty lily pad which was lowered from the rafters to the middle of the Dome as the band tore through Bottoms Up (the first, but not the last liquor reference of the night), the hit Animals from the ’05 album All The Right Reasons, as well as the aforementioned Rockstar.

It was slick, polished, loud, sweaty … and crowd loved it.

Opening the show, in almost a co-headlining capacity, were veteran bubblegrunge rockers Bush. The sound of the ‘90s never went away for the headliners, but at this stage of the game Gavin Rossdale has more to prove than Nickelback.

He’s been here before. After an eight-year hiatus (and perhaps less content in quiet family life with wife Gwen Stefani), Rossdale and his resurrected band ripped it up with, er, exactly what you might expect.

A good balance of old and new, the biggest cheers were reserved for past hits such as set opener Machinehead, as well as rousing versions of Everything Zen, Glycerine and Comedown. One new tune that stood out was The Heart Of The Matter, not to mention a roughed-up version of the Beatles’ nugget Come Together.

Seether and My Darkest Days ensured that it would a looong evening … but variety is said to be the spice of life.

Perennial openers for every show of this ilk, Seether seems to have everything that the higher slotted acts have: a string of records that each sell better than the one before, and a number of rock radio hits such as Gasoline, Broken, Country Song, Remedy, etc. But they never really seems to go anywhere other than third on the bill – funny, that.

My Darkest Days is the latest of the 604 Records stable and Chad Kroeger discoveries. Its keyboard-infused melodic metal was mildly enjoyable to the few who were actually in their seats by the show’s 6 p.m. start time.


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