Nickelback tears the roof off of GM Place in Vancouver
At GM Place on Thursday, June 3
Remember that scene in Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster when James Hetfield wants to jam and Lars Ulrich keeps fucking it up ’cause he’s too far up his own ass to just play a simple beat? That’s kind of the feeling I get with Nickelback, who are all exceptionally accomplished musicians doling out monster portions of the kind of new-millennium machine-rock that I simply do not get. I wish the four of them could be messier, find their swagger, and inject some sex into their bonehead framework. Maybe they need to get their ears around that Exile on Main St. reissue. It’s nothing they couldn’t pull off—hell, Nickelback was actually slinky during the first few bars of “Shakin’ Hands”, thanks to spare guitarist Tim Dawson (in an SNFU shirt!), and a rare moment when power-fisted drummer Daniel Adair got behind the beat instead of right on top of it (his usual place).
But compared to the last time I saw Nickelback, nine years ago in a field in northern Alberta, this year’s model was pretty much the same. It was tight to the point of arthritic, more masculine than balls on a monster truck, and still bigger than God. The difference, this time, was Chad Kroeger. This was Nickelback’s homecoming show after a world tour lasting almost 18 months, and the man wanted to celebrate, throwing Jí¤ger bombs down his neck with an admirable indifference to the consequences.
And he dragged bandmate Ryan Peake right down to the bottom of the bottle with him, challenging him to a round between almost every number of a 21-song set. “You’re gonna have some naughty Jí¤germeister sex tonight,” he bellowed in the guitarist’s face at one point, sounding a little like Frank Costanza. (Kroeger screams the words “Thank you” like a man being run through with a jagged-edged lance dipped in sulphuric acid). “You’re welcome, Mrs. Peake!” he cried, bouncing across the enormous stage.
If the binge drinking maybe added about 45 minutes of between-songs silliness to the set, it didn’t affect anybody’s playing. Predictably, the hits tore the roof off—“Burn It to the Ground”, “Photograph”, “Leader of Men”, “Rockstar”, “Too Bad”, “Gotta Be Somebody”—while all the pyro, cannon fire, and Kroeger’s Dean Martin routine got us through a small handful of lesser-known album tracks that you’d only recognize if you lived in either Wal-Mart or your 4x4 with the band’s entire catalogue on permanent repeat.
The lasting impression came from Kroeger’s pure goofiness, which was nice to see since we all know that the man wakes up every day to a media that hates his band as a matter of policy, even though there are actually far worse things than “How You Remind Me”. Like Hedley’s entire catalogue, for instance.
You might also argue that Nickelback forces Canada’s ugly class prejudice to the surface, since Kroeger is perceived as a hillbilly who went and made shitloads of money, the dirty oik, when he figured out how to refashion new country into rock music for the patio-lantern-and-porno sector of suburban Canada. This was made crystal clear when the band ran (beautifully) through a couple of verses and the chorus of Garth Brooks’s “Friends in Low Places”. In other words, the man has some talent, whether or not he uses it for good. Plus, he can sing. Name one pickle that can do that.
Nickelback covers Garth Brooks' "Friends In Low Places" at GM Place on June 3.