Nickelback is to heavy metal what Garth Brooks is to country. I'm guessing the guys in the band would take that as a compliment. After all, Brooks is one of the most consistently commercially successful artists of his generation. He managed that task by borrowing from rock what country at the time didn't have -- spectacle, mainly, as well as portions of each live performance that managed to marry technical proficiency on an instrument to sex appeal. (Not his own, most often, but the guys in his band surely benefited.)

Brooks could never be Mick Jagger himself, but he offered the secondhand image of rock 'n' roll jubilation to a country music audience eager for it.

Nickelback has returned the favor.

The band has somehow managed to grab folks who might find Metallica a little bit too much and introduce them to a post-Brooks strain of country. If you happen to be wearing a hat, you should now take it off to Nickelback. This was an ingenious move that properly predicted a future trend. One can picture Donald Trump whispering to Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, "You are most definitely not fired. In fact, you're a genius!"

Nickelback got the timid metal audience and the one that wasn't wholly convinced it liked "country" until they observed Chad Kroeger acting like a cross between James Hetfield, Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr. and Toby Keith.

Most of HSBC Arena was full Tuesday, which is saying something. The touring industry is in a shambles, one that does not seem to be affecting Nickelback.The band's fans came out in full force, made it clear they'd taken a page from the late-80s/early-90s concert attendance manual, and partied like it was the last time they'd have the chance to do so. It sure didn't feel like a Tuesday.

Buckcherry kicked it all off. with a set that commenced at 6:20, which seems unfair.The band's raucous post-Aerosmith boogie might've come off as second-rate Guns 'n' Roses, but still, it was the most exciting music the assembled were exposed to all night. While both Three Days Grace and Nickelback got by on an extremely well-rehearsed and polished form of "arena rock as mass entertainment," Buckcherry flew on a dirtier, funkier adrenaline, one that suggested back alleys rather than well-lit board rooms. Those who'd managed to get there early were privy to a pretty killer mini-set of raunch 'n' roll.

Three Days Grace was not about digging around between the couch cushions for something interesting, like Buckcherry delighted in doing. This is a band that considers post-Alice In Chains arena rock to be all about the grand gesture.

Three Days Grace offered their fans -- and there were many in attendance -- a trip through their career in miniature. I'm of the opinion that there were too many mid-tempo power-ballads in a row for a sentient music fan to tolerate, but the band's set went over well.

"Last To Know" and "Never Too Late" are essentially the same song with a mild fluctuation in tempo and key, but both were played with complete conviction by the band. That, in a nutshell, is what Tuesday was all about.

These are no-nonsense fans of heavy rock who want to identify with the lyrics and be able to understand the riffs that surround those lyrics without having to try too hard.

Nickelback -- Chad Kroeger, Mike Kroeger (bass), Ryan Peake (guitar/vocals) and Daniel Adair (drums) -- hit the ground running with "Burn It To the Ground," a tune that celebrates the guys' clear and present love for Metallica. This was as heavy as the Kroegers and co. would get until near the end of the show, when the band took great pleasure in shifting back into pure metal from a metal-country-rock hybrid.

There was, indeed, a drum solo, a Bon Jovi cover, explosions galore, columns of Kiss-like fire, and a general stretching of the tasteful limits of rock iconography.

Everything was played perfectly, tightly, uber-professionally, and with what sure looked like conviction. The Nickelback devout appeared to more than love it.

And yet, somehow, I left feeling less than fulfilled.


>Concert Review


With Three Days Grace and Buckcherry. Tuesday night in HSBC Arena.