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Nickelback grinds out hits, expletives at Bay Fest

By BRIAN ORLOFF
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nickelback was willing to go to great lengths to win over fans Friday, the first night of Bay Fest, a three-day musical marathon that ends today.

"If I have to light myself on f------ fire, everybody's gonna leave here impressed," lead singer Chad Kroeger yelled out to the crowd.

No fire was needed, however, to energize the audience, which stood dancing -- and often singing along -- with much of the chart-topping modern rockers' 70-minute set. Along with hits like How You Remind Me and Too Bad, the four-man band offered fierce versions of newer material, including two debuts.

Figured You Out, one of the two new songs, brimmed with sexual innuendo. It began starry-eyed and complimentary, but grew angrier as it unwound, Kroeger's growing vocals augmented by his brother Mike Kroeger's bass, Ryan Peake's guitar and Ryan Vikedal's drumming. Now lovesick and spiteful, the song turned venomous and the crowed relished its new direction, erupting in applause. The other new tune, the moody Do This, also pleased the fans.

Vinoy Park, on the downtown waterfront with its cooling breezes, proved a choice venue for the diverse Bay Fest. As modern rock ruled the stage where Nickelback played, the other end of the park pleased country rock fans with headliners .38 Special and Hank Williams Jr. Saturday, classic rockers Journey and rap star Ja Rule headlined the bill (see Monday's Times for more on Bay Fest). All told, the festival drew about 12,000 people Friday night, organizers said.

With a backdrop of palm trees and the stately Vinoy Hotel, Nickelback played an inspired set, though definitely derivative of mainstays on the rock scene like Bush.

Set opener Woke Up This Morning found Chad Kroeger spitting out bitter epithets like "felt like s-- when I woke up this morning," over menacing guitar riffs. Other songs continued in the same vituperative theme. Never Again, a story of domestic abuse with a violent denouement and razor sharp rhythms, shone through.

Another highlight was the dazzling light show. Strobes and other colored lights probed the crowd as the band jumped on platforms.

It's a shame that many of Nickelback's songs sound so similar, following a formula of bombastic opening, shape-shifting tempos with the occasional lull, and feedback-squelched ending. The expletive-laden stage banter and rock star posturing also grew tiresome after a while.

At a glance

Bay Fest continues 1-9 p.m. today at Vinoy Park, downtown St. Petersburg. $25; cash only at gate. Today's headliners on the Chrysler stage: Hootie & the Blowfish (6:45 p.m.) and Sugar Ray (8 p.m.); on the Jeep stage: Mindy McCready (5:45 p.m.) and Lonestar (7 p.m.).

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