- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

It was sweltering when Nickelback took the stage Wednesday at Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. The Canadian hard rockers made it even hotter.

The foursome’s rugged good looks and guitar-heavy sound weren’t all that had fans sweating. The band literally was on fire.

“It wasn’t hot enough, so we decided to shoot 40-foot flames out of the … stage,” frontman Chad Kroeger joked. The flames and fireworks that periodically leapt from the stage had the crowd roaring. So did the booming cannons from which the band’s roadies shot T-shirts.

The music was pretty good, too.

The group opened with “Animals” from its latest album, “All the Right Reasons.” The song has all the Nickelback hallmarks: naughty lyrics, tough guitar riffs and gravelly vocals. The explosions were hardly needed; the band generated plenty of energy on its own.

Two songs from earlier LPs — “How You Remind Me” (Mr. Kroeger noted it was “the tune that put Nickelback on the map”) and “Figured You Out” — follow a similar formula and made for a rollicking good show.

The Hanna, Alberta, band also showcased its softer side with ballads such as “Savin’ Me” (also from “All the Right Reasons”). “Photograph,” another tune from the disc and a big hit that Mr. Kroeger said was “about growing up in a small town,” featured some nice harmonies between him, guitarist Ryan Peake and drummer Daniel Adair. (Chad Kroeger’s brother Mike is the group’s bassist.)

The band invited the ladies to sing along to the love song “Far Away.” It’s a shame nobody smokes anymore; it was the perfect moment to hold a lighter in the air.

Nickelback, which has inspired plenty of clones (some of which singer-guitarist Kroeger has signed to his own label, 604 Records), seems to have resurrected old-fashioned arena rock: onstage pyrotechnics for the rock numbers, swaying girls in the audience for the ballads.

The girls are, after all, important. “The sound of thousands of women screaming never seems to get old,” Chad Kroeger remarked. “Isn’t that why we started a rock band, Peake?”

The band began a two-song encore with an acoustic version of its new single “Rockstar,” a catchy satire about the universal desire for fame and fortune. The song was accompanied by projection screens showcasing still images of classic rockers such as AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Steven Tyler and Frank Zappa.

Nickelback might not be on the level of those legends, but the guys are doing a solid job of continuing the tradition.

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