Last night Nickelback kicked off their “No Fixed Address Tour” in Allentown, returning for the first time in a decade. Not only was it the first night of this massive arena tour but it was of course Valentine’s Day evening which certainly put a very unique vibe in the PPL Center in Allentown, this show also being one of their first major concerts in a few months due to the ever popular Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey season that is currently underway. The cold snowy weather didn’t keep the Lehigh Valley from coming out to this show, though it certainly made the parking process take longer than usual and the venue was barely occupied as opening act, The Pretty Reckless, began their set.
The band, fronted by Taylor Momsen (ex Gossip Girl and Cindy Lou Who from the Grinch), has certainly garnered a lot of attention in the rock genre over the past few years and their most recent album “Going to Hell” came out almost exactly a year ago. The jump from the club circuit that the band has been touring relentlessly to this large arena stage should have meant in increase in production and performance quality but sadly it seemed almost the opposite with the stage being masked in darkness for the majority of their performance. What little time the crowd could see was often so blinding from back light that it made the performance both mysterious and a little confusing to witness, I am all for artistic lighting but it is hard for me to justify not being able to see the musicians at all during the show. Their 8 song setlist contained a good balance of new and old material however with the highlight being “Going to Hell” towards the end of the performance.
As the lights came up after their performance many fans were left scratching their heads and confused about what they had just witnessed; a few Pretty Reckless fans nearby the photographer area were questioning the authenticity of the performance pointing out a few moments where it seemed like there was nothing but a backing track playing. Their “theory” was fueled by the fact they couldn’t see the band on the stage and the large PPL Center LED screens streaming the performance added fuel to their fire as they offered not a single close up of Momsen during the performance. While I can’t attest to either side of the theory I can admit that the venue was just as empty as it was when their set began as when it ended with the majority of the crowd still making their way in or at the bar during the set. Taylor Momsen and Crew get a free pass on this one and I’ll chalk up the numerous sound issues, complaints from fans, and lack of clear visuals to just being day one of the tour.
The stage was quickly prepped for the main event, Nickelback’s arrival on stage at 9:15. The bars were packed, the food stands were more packed and the bathroom lines were seemingly endless as everyone ran out quickly during the set change to get everything they would need for what would be an hour and 45 minute from the headliner. As the lights went dim it became clear just how massive Nickelback’s stage production was going to be for this tour, suddenly a ring of lights illuminated the entire venue and a sea of smart phones from fans was risen into the air to record the opening of the first night of the tour to quickly toss up on their favorite social media sites. Some fans however were too busy singing along to be bothered with their phones as they sang as loud as they could to the live premiere of “Million Miles an Hour” off Nickelback’s most recent release “No Fixed Address,” for the which tour is named.
By the end of the first song Nickelback took a few minutes to set the mood for the night, Chad Kroeger walked around the stage laughing about how ridiculous their next song was, “Something in Your Mouth” and asking the crowd if it was too early to have a drink before kicking the song off. There were certainly many opportunities for drinks during the night with the band giving beers to fans in the first row and even throwing a large amount of beer into the crowd later in the set but the crowd certainly had no problem making their way to the numerous bars in the venue for a quick re-fuel when it was needed.
Following “Something in Your Mouth,” Kroeger and the band took a few seconds to address the fact that it was indeed Valentine’s Day and asked how many people got the tickets as a gift, to which a large portion of the crowds hands went up. With that the band dove into “Photograph” which sent the crowd into a sing-along fury the likes of which I have never seen at a rock show. The stage also became transformed with hundreds of fan photos being flashed across the backdrop of the band’s massive screen behind them.
The night truly began to take a shift following “Photograph” though with the next song being a cover of the Foo Fighters “Everlong” with Ryan Peake taking over the duty of lead vocals, an odd but very welcomed addition to their setlist that many Nickelback fans were excited to see as part of the show. The night would have plenty of other surprise covers such as the Chad Kroeger song “Hero” directly following the Foo Fighters cover, an incredible drum solo from Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” from Daniel Adair and even a surprise Eagles Medley towards the end of the night.
Along the way the band of course dug deep into their own library of music with a set that contained just four new songs off “No Fixed Address,” two of which had never been live performed before. The crowd was very excited for this material however there was a clear shift in the vibe when classics like “Far Away” and “Someday” were played. As a whole the setlist was well constructed and it will be interesting to see how it shifts as the tour progresses. New song, “She Keeps Me Up” was better received than the popular single “Edge of a Revolution” which makes me wonder if there won’t be a switch at some point for some other songs off “No Fixed Address.” The full setlist is posted below for those who are interested in the exact ordering and contents of the night’s performance.
Million Miles an Hour (Live Debut)
Something in Your Mouth
Gotta Be Somebody
Edge of a Revolution
Moby Dick Drum Solo
She Keeps Me Up (Live Debut)
When We Stand Together
Take It Easy / Hotel California
How You Remind Me
Burn It to the Ground
From a critical stand point I have no complaints about Nickelback’s performance at the PPL Center, in fact I almost think that it is unfair how much flack they get from the industry. Before you pass judgement on the band at least make an honest effort to check out their live show because there are very few rock musicians out there delivering the “full package” that they are offering with their show. The production was unlike anything I had ever seen at a concert before, not to mention the fact that Kroeger’s live voice shines a lot brighter than it does on any of the studio tracks giving the performance a lot more staying power. The “No Fixed Address” tour is set to run well into the summer and judging by the PPL Center show the band is attempting to set the record straight about them, there was plenty of laughter during the set and they weren’t taking themselves over seriously. In fact it looked like a bunch of friends on the stage just having a good time interacting with a nearly packed arena, something that is hard to do with shows of this size and scale.
Nickelback’s tour kick off in Allentown was a huge success for them and it was great for the Lehigh Valley that they finally made it back to the area, as expected the band promised towards the end of the set that they will be back soon which is entirely false because this tour will bring them to the area later this year. Until than the Lehigh Valley will just have to pick up their iPods and listen to the Nickelback albums they have and reminisce about the show that took place last night. My advice to anyone coming out to the next few dates of the tour is to kick back and just enjoy the show, you won’t regret it.