Nickelback has no official connection to the big-screen version of “Rock of Ages,” but on Friday night at Staples Center, it was hard not to think of the just-opened movie musical -- a flashy-trashy dramatization of the 1980s hard-rock scene -- as the hugely popular Canadian group powered through a concert equally rooted in the values of a bygone era.
Nickelback formed in the wake of such early-’90s grunge acts as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, yet its biggest songs always have harked back further, to hairy-chested hits by the likes of Foreigner, Journey and Night Ranger; there may be no greater defender of the modern power ballad than Nickelback’s frontman, Chad Kroeger, whose platinum-plated bulwark includes material he’s co-written for Chris Daughtry.
At Staples, Kroeger and his bandmates delivered many of those big songs -- “Someday,” “Far Away,” “How You Remind Me,” each a top 10 single -- in a big show full of the kind of arena-rock spectacle Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe commoditized a quarter-century ago.
There were flamethrowers and T-shirt cannons and silhouettes of naked ladies; there were a pair of moving walkways that made Kroeger and guitarist Ryan Peake look like harried travelers at LAX. And of course there was a smaller secondary stage (which in this case descended from the venue’s ceiling) designed to provide a close-up glimpse of these otherwise-untouchable heroes.