Photos & Review by Greg Hamil for MPM
Another nice night in the Midwest! Given the outrageous heat we have experienced at times, it could have turned out to be a lot worse.
Of course, travelling to the Chicago area on a Friday presents its own challenges. Traffic backups, accidents, and people in general just wanting to get their weekend started. This, unfortunately, caused me to miss the opening act of the show.
The lineup for this show was a little unusual. The headliner tonight was Nickelback, with country superstar, Brantley Gilbert and Canadian county vocalist Josh Ross. But we were going to find out soon that maybe it wasn’t so unusual after all.
As I stated earlier, I didn’t make it in time for Josh Ross’ set, but my fellow photographers that were there, along with the folks in the front row assured me that he put on a great performance. His setlist included: Tall Boys – Before I Loved You – Red Flags – First Taste of Gone – Iris (Goo Goo Dolls cover) – Ain’t Doin’ Jack – Trouble – On a Different Night. I did get a little taste of his performance a little later in the show, so stand by for comments on that coming up later in the article.
Next up was Brantley Gilbert. He began performing in 2005 out of Jefferson, Georgia. While labeled as country, you can hear (and see) the southern/hard rock influence in his music and his performance.
Brantley’s set started out with Kick It In The Sticks! It would be safe to say the hard rock crowd was hooked right from the start! With three guitars (four when Brantley played), a bass guitarist, and drummer, there was plenty of action on stage. This wasn’t your standard, “stay in one place and play” type of country show. These guys were running, jumping, and making all kinds of crazy faces. Plus, not to be outdone by any metal acts, there was plenty of pyro to keep the place on fire.
Moving on, the next song up was the hit song The Weekend, followed by My Kinda Party and a cover of Colt Ford’s Dirt Road Anthem. At this point the crowd was hooked! There was dancing in the aisles, hands waving above heads, and even some head banging going on.
As the show reached the midway point, we were treated to a couple of covers. First was Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Blue on Black. This got the biggest response from the crowd to this point. In 2019, Five Finger Death Punch did a video cover of Blue on Black, that featured Brantley, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Brian May. The video played on the screens in the amphitheater while the band played, which drew loud cheers all the back to the lawn seats.
As the band slowed things down, Brantley talked about how the active-duty military and veterans held a special place in his heart. He said that he and his wife promised each other that when their daughters were older, they would teach them that the real heroes aren’t comic book characters or sports figures; but that the real heroes are the folks that put their life on the line every day for all of us. Being a veteran myself, it gave me a lot more respect for his views on the subject. This led us into one of his bigger hits, One Hell of an Amen!
Bringing it back up a notch, the pyro kicked in once again and band broke into Brantley’s biggest hit to date, Bottoms Up! The crowd, who had been quiet, but appreciative of the ballads, were back on their feet singing and dancing!
As his set was winding down, it was time for a medley. But just when you think you know what a country guy will play; the first part of the medley is Blind by Korn, which leads into Whatever by Godsmack, which leads into Shine by Collective Soul. Just what any country music lover would want right? But it didn’t matter. Phones were lit up, fists were pounding in the air, and a small mosh pit even opened in the general admission section.
Brantley closed out his set with Take It Outside and Read Me My Rights. As he bid goodnight to the crowd, they showed their appreciation with a standing ovation! I think it would be save to say that with all the “rockers” in the crowd, that country music might have gained a few new fans!
Brantley Gilbert Setlist: Kick It in the Sticks – The Weekend – My Kinda Party – Dirt Road Anthem – You Don’t Know Her Like I Do – Bury Me Upside Down – Small Town Throwdown – Son of the Dirty South – Blue On Black – A County Boy Can Survive – Country Must Be Country Wide – One Hell of an Amen – Bottoms Up – Blind/Whatever/Shine medley – Take It Outside – Read Me My Rights
With the crowd more than warmed up, it was time for Nickelback! Generally considered a post-grunge/hard rock band, Nickelback formed in 1995 in Hanna, Alberta, Canada. Sometimes I hear “snarky” remarks about them and wonder why? Their music is great, and they sell out just about everywhere they play. From my own experience, I know they are a hard-working band.
Many years ago, there was a small local festival that I used to go to. I was friends with the DJ’s at the radio station that put the show on. That year, they told me that they had spent their budget on the bands for the show, but that this unknown band named Nickelback had called to ask if they could play at the festival. When they were told that there was no more money, they said they would play for free just to get their music out there. Looking back now, that kind of dedication paid off in a big way!
As the light fade, “Wanted” posters of all four band members appear on the screens. Each one walks out of the photo as the screens transitions to a van being chased by the police. The screens go black and as the lights come up Chad Kroeger, Ryan Peake, and Mike Kroeger are standing around Daniel Adair on the drum kit, which appears to be sitting on the hood of a car.
They all break away from the drums to perform the first song of the night, San Quentin. The crowd is already on their feet, and this is where they will stay for the remainder of the night! Between the pyro and explosions and the constant roar of the crowd, this was going to be a very loud night!
There isn’t a lot of talk between songs. But let’s face it, with the number of hits that Nickelback has, there is no need for a lot of talk. This will be nothing but a hit after hit show. With that, there is another video interlude with a car being chased by a Phoenix. As that fades to black, we hear the opening riff to Animals. This brings a huge roar from the near sell-out crowd that blows the roof off the place!
As we progressed to the middle of the set, we hear the suggestive Figured You Out, followed by a cover of Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott’s Hero. This leads us into one of the most fun parts of the night. A cover of Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road. Nickelback starts the song out but is quickly joined by Josh Ross. The crowd shows their appreciation for the man that opened the show as the energy he brought to the stage would never indicate that he had already played a full set earlier. As if that weren’t enough, Brantley Gilbert reappears on the second verse and brings the noise to a whole new level as this has turned into an all out jam session!
After another video interlude, we the “big hits” portion of the show as the band plays High Time and Photograph. This leads to the most fun part of the show. Chad Kroeger brings a fan onstage who is dressed like Joe Dirt. It takes a minute before the band realizes that this isn’t a guy, but a girl dressed up as one. The banter back and forth is hilarious and gets a big laugh from the crowd. The girl then joins them in singing Rock Star. But she performs with the band like she has been with them the whole tour!
To close out the main part of the set, the crowd gets to join in as they play How You Remind Me. If there was anyone there who didn’t know the words to this song, I sure didn’t see them. Then with more flames, more explosions, and the last screams anyone could make before they went completely hoarse, Nickelback closes the show the hard rockin’ hits Gotta Be Somebody and Burn It To the Ground.
What started out looking like a very odd combination of bands, we got an incredible show! I think there were many in attendance that thought they were going to just have to “deal” with sitting through a couple of country acts to get to Nickelback. But by the end of the night, I think everyone could see that Brantley Gilbert can rock with the best of them! It was another great outdoor show indeed!