As part of our “stay”cation this year, my wife, stepdaughter, and I went to see Nickelback perform at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. Opening acts were Saving Able, Papa Roach, and Hinder. Being a huge fan of Nickelback as well as Papa Roach and Hinder, I was more than excited to see this concert.
It would be the second time that the three of us were seeing a Nickelback concert in 2009, and the third time overall (click here for my previous Nickelback concert review). Both of the previous performances were memorable experiences, so there was no reason to expect anything different from this show at the Arts Center. Our tickets put us on the lawn, so there was bound to be a little more debauchery than we were accustomed to seeing during a Nickelback concert, I just didn’t realize how much more.
It rained on our way to the concert, so we knew the lawn was going to be muddy and wet. When we arrived at the Center, it was still raining and there was uncertainty about when it would stop. We went inside and found a spot on the lawn just as Saving Able was into their performance.
I haven’t gotten into Saving Able. I like their songs when they come on the radio, but haven’t gotten into them the way that I’ve gotten into other new bands. Saving Able is all right, I just don’t think they’re anything special. Their three radio hits, Drowning, 18, and Addicted, were performed, as well as a couple of songs I didn’t know. Their set was short, but their performance was decent.
After Saving Able, the rain had stopped and it was time for Papa Roach. I’m a huge fan of Papa Roach and kept insisting to my stepdaughter that she was going to be a huge fan by the end of their set. She didn’t know much Papa Roach and the more I suggested she listen to them, the less she did.
Papa Roach stormed the stage, opening with Getting Away With Murder. They came out a ball of fire, Jacoby Shaddix shouting and demanding that the fans get on their feet and get ready to enjoy a rock show. Their new drummer, Tony Palmero, didn’t seem well versed in the opening song. His drum beat was off a note compared with the rest of the band. It was noticeable and took away from the song, which is a shame. Getting Away With Murder is such a strong song and a great opener.
Papa Roach would take off from there. Tony recovered nicely after the opening song and settled into a groove, not missing a beat for the rest of the night. Jacoby Shaddix, who I think is one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock and roll, was letting it all out on the stage that night. Giving his all, Jacoby sang with venom, worked the crowd, and even jumped into the crowd, similar to what he did at Cruefest similar to what he did at Cruefest. Jacoby was a monster and led the band on a tear.
Hollywood Whore, I Almost Told You That I Loved You, and Lifeline were played from the new album. Classic hits included, Scars, Between Angels and Insects, and …To Be Loved. The big closer was their first ever hit, the song that put them on the map, Last Resort. They did an amazing version and the fans ate up their entire set.
After Papa Roach left the stage, I turned to my stepdaughter and smiled. She begrudgingly admitted that I was right. She loved Papa Roach and wanted to get all of their albums. I smiled inside, happy to have influenced her into liking good rock and roll.
Hinder was up next. I had only seen them once, back in March, when they opened for Motley Crue. I didn’t remember much from that set, but knew they put on a great performance. My stepdaughter was excited to see them, as she, like myself, was a big Hinder fan. My wife was just sitting through the opening acts, waiting to get to Nickelback. She wasn’t a fan of any of the opening bands, and Papa Roach’s performance did not make her embrace the band. She had similar feelings for Hinder.
Hinder launched with Use Me, and the version they played was note perfect. It matched the album spot on. Hinder sounded excellent and by the time they got to their second song, Take It To The Limit, the lawn was packed. Whoever had missed Saving Able and Papa Roach, apparently didn’t want to miss Hinder.
During Hinder’s set, I noticed all the lawn drunks. There were those behind us spilling beer all over themselves. There were big women mud wrestling in front of us. Girls dressed in clothing that was much to revealing for their shape (quite unflattering). Girls taking their clothing off. Guys doing the same and showing way too much ass crack. There were fights, pot smokers, drunks, and of course, people wiping out in the mud. Flip flops are not good footwear when the mud is an inch thick.
Hinder, meanwhile, was ripping it up on stage. When they got to Lips of an Angel, the entire Arts Center was on their feet, singing word for word back to the band. Hinder is on the verge of launching their career into the next stratosphere, and I really believe that by their next album, Hinder is going to be headlining their own shows. My stepdaughter and I sang Lips of an Angel along with everyone else and it was the moment of the night up to that point; an incredible feeling to witness the crowd interaction for that mega hit.
The band would close with Get Stoned, a much enjoyed closer. At the end of their set, Hinder took a standing ovation back into the dressing room. They had dominated the Nickelback crowd and converted quite a few more fans by the end of their night.
The main event was next, what we had all been waiting for, especially Mrs. Vie. She was polite through the opening acts, but they weren’t really for her. My wife loves Nickelback, and she was excited to be seeing them again.
I enjoy Nickelback concerts a lot, but when they opened with the same three songs as the March concert (Something In Your Mouth, Because of You, and Photograph), I had to wonder if I was going to be witnessing the same show from months earlier. Not that it would have been horrible, I just wanted a different performance. I had no idea for the surprise I was about to receive.
Chad Kroger is a delightful frontman. He can sing, he’s charming, he’s good looking, and he tells a good story, especially when setting up a song. He can get the audience to eat out of his hand with very little effort. Chad has true confidence as a lead singer and it shows during his on stage performances.
By the time the band got to Figured You Out, the show was rocking. They played a smashing, heavy version of that song and really punched up their performance. This is one of the best songs in their catalog, and I was pleased that they performed it with such integrity.
A double shot of slow songs followed, both excellent tunes. Savin’ Me and Far Away did the back-to-back ballad bunch that made my wife smile (she loves the slow songs).
After that, it was time for the moment of the night. Chad even announced that there were some critics in the audience who might not have been having a good time, but this would be the turning point for them and they were going to write about the concert the next day.
I was curious, expecting some lame stunt, or other such nonsense. The band kicked into Highway To Hell by AC/DC, and I thought, “all right, that’s different.” But it wasn’t anything super amazing. The first time I saw Nickelback they did a cover of Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, so this was just a heavier cover song.
Then the band brought out Austin Winkler from Hinder and Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach to sing the song with them. I was smiling wide as the performance just got more interesting. Jacoby was wearing a Brian Johnson type derby on his head, in homage to the great AC/DC singer. This was a pretty cool moment for the concert.
Then the unthinkable happened, a moment I never would have guessed in a thousand years. Chad Kroger leaned into the microphone and announced “Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. ACE FREHLEY!” I was stunned.
My wife and stepdaughter looked at me with huge grins, as they know how much I love Kiss. Seeing Ace Frehley step on stage with Nickelback, and Jacoby Shaddix, and Austin Winkler was just mind boggling. I was speechless. All I could do was scream along with the rest of the audience. This was amazing.
Ace, of course, was flawless. He played a brilliant solo in tribute to Angus Young and finished the song proper. At the end of the tune, all the special guests took a bow. It was an incredible moment. I wasn’t even aware that Nickelback knew Ace Frehley, let alone that they were close enough with him for a guest appearance. Awesome!
The rest of the night was still solid, but for me, nothing would top that moment. They followed Highway To Hell with a brilliant version of Gotta Be Somebody, which has slowly become my favorite Nickelback tune ever. It’s an amazing song meant for summertime road trips. Roll down the windows and blast the tune on your way to the beach.
Burn It To The Ground was also performed with intensity and I was very happy to hear that song as well. What they didn’t play was This Afternoon, which was somewhat disappointing, as I like that song a lot. But, I guess the tradeoff was getting Ace Frehley to come out on stage. I’d sacrifice one good song for that. We definitely got our money’s worth.
Once again Nickelback came to my town, conquered, and left us breathless and screaming for more. If they come back next year, I’m probably going to see them again. They really are that good and this coming from a guy who has seen a lot of concerts. Nickelback is up there with the best of them.
Something In Your Mouth
Because of You
Figured You Out
Highway to Hell (w/ Jacoby Shaddix, Austin Winkler, and Ace Frehley)
Gotta Be Somebody
If Everyone Cared
Friends In Low Places (partial)
If Today Was Your Last Day
Burn It To The Ground
How You Remind Me