REVIEW: Canadian rockers pulled out the stops for a dwindling audience.
So it's come to this: Nickelback shooting off T-shirt guns at fans.
In a concert that saw a levitating stage, rampant pyro and band members riding conveyer belts, frontman Chad Kroeger egging on crew members to shoot $35 concert shirts into the crowd was hardly the flashiest or gaudiest thing at Target Center on Wednesday night.
But it was the perfect sign that ye Canadians hath no shame.
As Twins ticketholders now know, T-shirt guns are the lowest-common-denominator gimmick for riling a crowd -- the can't-lose, last-resort tool to use when fan interest is waning, your hits don't add up to anything substantial and you have minor-league talent trying to play in the big leagues. Nickelback even resorted to stuffing free beers into the shooters.
With a stacked lineup that included fellow gravel-voiced radio-staple bands Bush and Seether, Nickelback attracted only about 11,000 fans on Wednesday. That's down 3,000 from its last Target Center stop. For music lovers keeping score, it's also the same number indie heroes the Black Keys attracted with about one-tenth the radio play last week at the arena.
Attendance figures aren't reliable indicators of a band's worth, for sure, but there were plenty of other sure signs that Nickelback has gone far beyond amok. Like the boneheadedness of the new song "Bottoms Up," whose lyrics actually feature the phrase "Let's drink that [expletive]." Like Kroeger introducing the sap-drenched ballad "Far Away" as "one for the ladies" (an insult to said women). Or the fact that every time Kroeger said, "I love this .... town," he always used an F-bomb but never said Minneapolis (or Twin Cities or Minnesota)?
The big showpiece in the concert came a half-hour into the 90-minute set, when a circular stage in the center of the arena lifted off with Kroeger and Co. on board, then levitated up over the crowd and then ... just sort of sat there. That they sang "Rockstar" while up in the air was far and away the most poetic part of the show. Paging Spinal Tap!
Nickelback's forbearers in the post-grunge radio niche, the British band Bush did not have to shoot off anything but high-octane guitar riffs during its hourlong set -- although frontman Gavin Rossdale did dash through the crowd during a cover of the Beatles' "Come Together." At least he recognized what city he was in, though, as he cheerily recalled performing at First Avenue nightclub across the street.
Bush's own hits, including its opener "Machinehead," came off sounding way more arty and sophisticated in the context of a Nickelback opening slot. Seriously. And limited to an hourlong set, the band played almost nothing but hits, also including "Glycerine," "Everything Zen" and the finale "Comedown."
A good chunk of the crowd came early to see Seether, the second of the four opening bands (Canadian newbies My Darkest Days also played). The South African trio, last seen headlining the State Fair grandstand, had the rawest and simplest and most sparsely lit set of the night. And the best.
See Nickelback's set list at startribune.com/artcetera.
Follow Riemenschneider on Twitter: @ChrisRstrib