Opening day at the Minnesota State Fair had all the familiar ingredients: Exemplary 70-degree weather, ideal crowded-but-not-too-crowded attendance, and the quintessential headliner for a grandstand concert to remind us most people just want to hear songs they heard innumerable times on the radio a decade and a half ago or more.
The throwback act thrown up in this case was Nickelback, the Canadian hard-rock band that hit it big in 2002 with “How You Remind Me” — and that has racked up innumerable antagonistic reviews from music critics ever since for such questionably boneheaded songs as “Something in Your Mouth.”
The Alberta rockers eschewed all their bad press on Thursday and still drew a respectable 12,440 fans to the grandstand. They had sizable help from opener Daughtry, the namesake band of “American Idol” TV castaway Chris Daughtry, long a Twin Cities favorite.
Like dudes at the midway arcade games yelling out challenges to passersby, both Daughtry and Nickelback made it seem like their biggest job of the night was to sell loads and loads of alcohol. Sure, that really is a key role of touring rock bands, but most musicians with a decent amount of pride aren’t so overt and passionate about it.
Sporting conspicuously darker hair than the last time he played the Twin Cities in 2012, Nickelback’s singer Chad Kroeger made light of being at a state fair as he asked if it was OK to start drinking on stage. This was 12 or so minutes into his set. “Come on, we made it through three songs,” he said, likening his rowdy antics to the fair’s neon thrill rides. “It’s like going on to a bar with me: Hold on for dear life and try not to barf.”
Daughtry also raised a plastic glass several times toward the crowd, and — after introducing his band members — referred to himself as “Chris Daughtry, holder of Solo Cup.”
While he unleashed assorted hard-rock tunes in a similar hard-chugging vein, the core of Daughtry’s set was still mushier power ballads such as “Home” and “September.” He even turned a Metallica cover, “Nothing Else Matters,” into a tender, piano-laden anthem that might suit a romantic Nicholas Sparks movie more than a “Mad Max” soundtrack.
Nickelback started off heavy with the title track of its new album, “Feed the Machine,” but then only played one more off the commercial dud of a record, instead feeding the audience with its very mechanical and formulaic bro-rock of yesteryear.
Much of the 1¾-hour set felt like a frat party by guys who left college 15 years ago, but never really left. It never really maintained any musical momentum, either, as Kroeger kept cracking wise between songs and turning to goofy gimmicks for entertainment. He even led the audience through a singalong of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” at one point, the lyrics “you can never leave” sounding especially pertinent.
The lowest of the low points was either “Something in Your Mouth” — which, to be fair, found male and female fans alike eager to sing lyrics about thongs and strip clubs — or when Kroeger brought up a young man and woman to sing “Rock Star” as if at a karaoke bar. Only the woman was subjected to Kroeger’s grunting lines about her looks and how she might wind up accompanying him to Bismarck a night later. The dude he brought up was actually a pretty good singer, too, but got no props.
About the only improvement over past Nickelback concerts came when Daughtry returned and joined in to sing “Savin’ Me.” There was no saving this one, though.