Judging by the number of cars bearing Canada license plates around Michigan State University’s Breslin Center on Tuesday, it was clear that Vancouver’s Nickelback were going to feel right at home.
Fans waved maple-leaf flags around the venue before the Campus Invasion show, which also featured performances by Starsailor, Injected and Nickelback protÃ©gÃ©es Default. Others sat atop their rides shouting pro-Canada slogans.
Stepping onstage to sweeping, cinematic music, Nickelback kicked off their set with “Woke Up This Morning.” Singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger was obviously pleased with Nickelback’s newfound multiplatinum status – he grinned incessantly as fans punched their fists in the air and sang along with the album track.
The quartet looked more like good ol’ boys from the South than Canadian rockers; they all wore cowboy boots, and bassist Mike Kroeger donned a white cowboy hat. No wonder they adopted the “Dukes of Hazzard” theme as entrance music for their fall tour.
During their 90-minute set, Nickelback whipped through most of the material from their two U.S. records, last year’s Silver Side Up and 2000’s The State. Kroeger and Ryan Peake created a wall of sound with their guitars on songs such as “One Last Run” and “Breathe.” Harmonies were near flawless, as were Kroeger’s album-ready vocals.
For “Cowboy Hat,” the Kroeger brothers and Peake opted to take the stage in a metal fashion, standing along the rim to jam during a bridge. The Kroegers and Peake took turns playing atop pedestals and a walkway that stretched behind the drumkit and wall of speakers.
Nickelback’s set also included two new songs, and frontman Kroeger invited the audience to “email us, write us, scream at us at the end of the f–ing show” to voice their opinions on the tracks.
One of the new songs, tentatively titled “Figured You Out,” is an overtly sexual tune that includes the line “I love the pants around your feet.” The track is perhaps one of Nickelback’s best, with a stop-and-start guitar style that segues into smooth two-part harmony. Fans, most of whom were college-aged and decked out in Abercrombie & Fitch, responded fervently when Chad Kroeger asked, “What do you think? Does that one make the cut?”
The spring 2002 installment of the Campus Invasion Tour began with an outdoor set on the MTV2 stage by England’s Starsailor, whose mellow performance was in stark contrast to their tourmates’. Inside the venue, at 7:30 p.m., Injected opened the show with a short set of material from their major-label debut, Burn It Black. Lead singer Danny Grady flashed devil horns to the audience, who more than eagerly returned the gesture.
Default provided a tight, crystal-clear set featuring songs from their U.S. debut, The Fallout, which was co-produced by Chad Kroeger. With a firm grip on the microphone, vocalist Dallas Smith looked like just another fraternity boy on campus, but his powerful voice belied his appearance. Default kicked off their set with “Slow Me Down,” allowing Smith to stop midway to yell, “Michigan State University, make some noise.”
Guitarist Jeremy Hora laid down a series of blues licks before bassist Dave Benedict threw a water bottle in the air to kick off “Seize the Day.” They closed the set with their latest single, “Deny.”
As they did on their fall tour, Nickelback wrapped up the evening with an acoustic set. They performed a rendition of Big Wreck’s “Mistake” and teased the audience with a mellow verse from “How You Remind Me.” Inviting the audience to sing along, Chad Kroeger said, “I think you can sing a lot louder than that. Ready?” Nickelback paused, strapped on electric instruments and pounded away to a strong finish.