Prior to Valentine’s Day, I had never been to the PPL Arena in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My first visit was definitely a memorable one. As my wife and I made the long drive down quiet secondary roads, we kept an eye on the weather, as snow was in the forecast. It wasn’t a major storm, nor a blizzard, but dangerous winds and up to 3 inches of snow was being forecasted for the ride home from the concert. 3 inches of snow didn’t really bother me, and I figured that our ride home would be slower than usual, but ultimately no big deal.
We got to the arena early. Since we had never been there before, we wanted to allow for time to park and walk around the arena, taking in the sights, and of course find which beer stands were the best to visit. After making our way to the floor and locating our seats, Cathy and I headed out to the halls on a beer run. After a quick lap around, I settled on a Labatt’s stand. We were quickly greeted by a hard rocking dude and his leather clad girlfriend. The dude was clearly tanked, and I wonder if he even remembered a moment of the concert, let alone talking to us in line. His girlfriend/wife/significant other was very sweet, and while I entertained the drinking man, making sure he didn’t fall over, Cathy and the woman carried on a nice conversation. And the dude was nice enough to buy our beers, after we promised to pay it forward at some point in time, and not to spill a drop. With both promises made, we made a polite departure to the merchandise stand for price checking and people watching.
FYI: T-shirts are up to $40 now. I remember when they were half that price, but I’m old, I know. Hoodie sweatshirts were going for $70 and much to my disappointment there were no beanies or winter hats on sale. How you go out on tour in the Northeast in the middle of winter and do not offer warm hats for sale is beyond me, but I am not the merchandise manager for Nickelback. However, in the event that he/she is reading this, sell some winter hats! You would have made a killing that night.
We were back on the floor and in our seats with plenty of time to see The Pretty Reckless open the show. Cathy hated them from the opening note. They were too hard and too metal for her liking. I, on the other hand, was absorbing their set and reserving judgment until it was over. I did not know much about this band prior to their opening slot, but I had heard of them. Turns out they’ve been around for 6 years and have released 2 albums and 1 EP. Not a bad little career launch.
Their stage show was dark and gloomy by design. Deep purple and crimson lighting was used for the stage and rarely did the white lights illuminate the area in front of lead singer, Taylor Mosmen. She is a good lead singer and was working the crowd as best she could during their limited 30 minute set. For the most part, The Pretty Reckless had to let the music do their talking, and while my wife would disagree, I would say that it did. By the end of their set, the arena was full and everyone was on their feet applauding their appreciation for the opening act---a rare occurrence in the world of rock and roll. After seeing their live performance, I decided that I would definitely have to check out more of their music in the near future.
After a longer than usual wait time between bands, the house lights went dark at 9:18. It was time for the main event! It had been five years since we last saw them in concert, so Cathy and I were extra amped for this particular show. Nickelback took the stage with a roar and ripped into their opening song, “A Million Miles An Hour.” It was a great selection to open the tour, as it is the first song on their latest record. The band performed it with a ferocity and intensity that told the crowd it felt great to be back on the road.
If you’ve never seen Nickelback’s live show, I implore you to check them out for this tour. They are performing in just about every inch of North America, so there is bound to be a show near you, and they are absolutely amazing in concert. Even though five years had passed since the last time I saw them, they haven’t lost any of their charisma or ability at all. If anything, they’ve only gotten that much better. Chad Kroeger was his usual engaging self, addressing the raucous crowd in between each song. He acknowledged that the band had not been in Allentown for a long time and they were making that up to the town by performing the opening night of their world tour there. In the usual rockstar fashion, he told us several times that there was no place else he would rather be at and that he hadn’t heard a crowd this great in a long time. That line has to be in the rockstar handbook under page one.
Even though it was the first show of a long tour, the band was in mid-season form. Some minor hitches could be spotted by the trained eye, but they were few and far between. As seasoned veterans of the stage, Nickelback knows how to entertain and work their way through any glitches so they appeared planned and go unnoticed by almost all. And the Allentown crowd was primed for a hard rocking Saturday night, which was just what they got.
“Hero” was played for the first time in 10 years as noted by Chad. The song was performed flawlessly, and it was great to hear it live. I had forgotten about that gem (available on the first Spider-Man soundtrack) he recorded with Josey Scott from Saliva. Other highlights included a fantastic cover of the Foo Fighters “Everlong,” with lead vocals from guitarist Ryan Peake. I figured Nickelback would perform at least one cover, but never would have predicted a Foo Fighters song. Fan favorites “Gotta Be Somebody,” “Far Away,” and “RockStar” were also played without error, sounding like the masterpieces they are.
The infamous beer toss returned with a twist. Normally during the beer toss (where the band literally tosses cups of beer into the crowd) the road crew tosses out the beer while the band performs an instrumental accompaniment. On this night however, Chad wanted to partake in the tossing festivities. While the rest of the band performed Metallica as the backdrop, Chad and some road crew members tossed cups of beer into the crowd, cheering them on when they were actually caught (which was rare). It was an extremely enjoyable moment, even though Cathy and I were not close enough to catch any cups ourselves.
The show continued with a stupendous performance of the megahit “Someday” followed by an impromptu performance of The Eagles “Take It Easy” (first verse) and “Hotel California” where a man in the front row sang lead vocals while the band plowed through the first verse of that song. Mr. Front Row knew most of the words and the crowd filled in where they could before the song ultimately fell apart just prior to the hook. That is one of the things that is so cool about Nickelback, they are not afraid to take those kind of chances. It was clear that the band was having a great time on stage and it resonated with the crowd.
And while overall, the show was amazing, there were a few downsides, although not many. The main thing that disappointed me was the band’s decision to only perform 3 songs from “No Fixed Address.” Their latest album is chock full of hits, but the band limited their performance selection to “Million Miles An Hour,” “Edge Of A Revolution,” and “She Keeps Me Up.” They avoided the ballads of the album and did not perform the best song of the record “Sister Sin.”
It may be the curse of a band with so many hits, but they also didn’t perform some of their biggest hits, including “Figured You Out.” I know that when you have as many blockbuster songs as Nickleback does that it is hard to perform them all, but I really thought that “Figured You Out” would be played that night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Perhaps as the tour goes on, Nickelback will mix up the set and add in additional new songs. Only time will tell.
As for our ride home, it was absolutely horrendous. It’s hard to believe that 3 inches of snow can wreck so much havoc on the roads, but that was the case. None of the roads we travelled were treated and it took us almost 3 hours to get home, for what would normally be a 1 hour ride. There were points on the journey that I thought we were sleeping in the car for the night; the roads were that bad. Yet, the journey was worth it, because we got to see Nickelback live for the 4th time.
All in all, it was another wonderful night of live Nickelback. The band conquered Allentown and are well prepared to rip through North America for the next few months. They are scheduled t return this summer and after seeing them live on Valentine’s Day, you can count me in for their August performance at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. I’m already counting down the days.
Million Miles An Hour
Something In Your Mouth
Everlong (Foo Fighters cover)
Gotta Be Somebody
Edge Of A Revolution
Master of Puppets/Creeping Death (beer toss)
Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin cover)/Drum Solo
She Keeps Me Up (first time ever performed live)
When We Stand Together
Take It Easy/Hotel California (impromptu Eagles cover)
How You Remind Me
Burn It To The Ground