Thursday March 12/ 2015
I’ll admit it. Other than the obvious hits, I don’t know Nickelback’s music much at all. I know I’d have really dug it if I’d discovered them as a 15 year old kid. They’ve certainly rustled up a less than stellar reputation for some, though it doesn’t seem to be rooted in much. They’ve faced much derision and distain but there was none of that in the Saddledome in Calgary. I was expecting to not like it one bit. I actually liked it by quite a lot of bits.
Nickelback came rocketing out of the gates with a spectacular multi media display and the driving Million Miles an Hour from their latest album No Fixed Address. It was a grabbing opener. “It’s great to be back on Canadian soil” Chad Kroeger roared at the crowd, and the patriotic cheers rose up.
Nickelback are good at what they do. Really good actually. Front man Kroeger with brother Mike on bass, Ryan Peake lead guitar and drummer Daniel Adair, are tight and great players all. That said, the energy in the room was less about what they played than about how they played to this adoring crowd. Kroeger is a leader not only of his band but of the throngs of rock fans that eat this stuff up. It’s a hearty meal that needs to be washed down with several beers.
It’s hard not to assume that some of the banter and party antics are part of the regular shtick, but they came off as genuine enough. Kroeger commented that playing in Calgary felt more like a high school reunion than a rock concert and seemed to enjoy pointing out that he knew a good percentage of the first five rows. Flinging half full cups of beer and firing t-shirts into the crowd was silly and fun. At times, the atmosphere felt like having a band at a back yard barbeque. Inviting people to a neighbouring bar after the show and mentioning “the drummer is single” added to the garage band charm.
The sing along section with just acoustic guitars, drawing upon The Eagles song book, brought a funny moment when an onstage camera man focused on a Gerry Garcia look-alike sporting an Eagles t-shirt and put him up on the big screen. Big laughs and cheers from both band and fans. This element of the show deserves mention as the onstage camera work and direction was excellent, as was the light design and video bits to go along with certain songs. The giant circular L.E.D. video screen was really quite spectacular. Overall a well choreographed aspect of the show.
Musically, the band pumped through the well known heavy hitters and mushy ballads (new and old) throwing in a couple of covers for good measure. The Tragically Hip’s Blowin High Dough proved that these guys are not too many degrees away from being a really popular bar band but with bucket loads of cash. A highlight was Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog which allowed drummer Daniel Adair the drivers seat, displaying his brilliant chops in a very musical drum solo. At the end of it all, Kroeger and his mates managed to whip this crowd into a devil horning froth. Hey. It’s only rock n’ roll.
No matter how you feel about this hardworking band, Nickelback know how to put on an entertaining rock show. Even the haters would find themselves involuntarily tapping their feet. Nickelback have their finger on the pulse of what appeals to the masses. That tricky formula that sells. It’s not challenging stuff, but it grabs you by the blue collar and throws you around without remorse. Fifty million album sales must mean something.
Photos by Charles Hope and Dee Lippingwell.