Just one day after Toronto Maple Leafs fans slunk out of the building following yet another one-sided loss by their team, Rogers Arena was packed with an equally misunderstood group: Nickelback fans.
But, unlike several boosters of the beleaguered Buds, not one of them was wearing a paper bag over their heads.
Nickelback are truly one of the world’s strangest success stories. They’re one of the biggest bands of all time, with five multi-platinum albums and half a dozen Grammy nominations over a career lasting two decades. Their signature hit “How You Remind Me” is the most-played song on radio of the new millennium. Lead singer Chad Kroeger, bassist brother Mike, lead guitarist Ryan Peake and drummer Daniel Adair are major rock stars by any measurable standard and yet seemingly nobody is willing to admit to liking their music.
In a highly unscientific recent poll of friends and co-workers, everybody said they couldn’t stand the former Vancouver-based band apart from a new intern, whose name I won’t mention to not potentially hurt future job prospects. Whenever I told someone I planned to review the show, they reacted as if I suggested TransLink executives deserve another raise or Harper another term. They’re like the Vancity Buzz of rock – everyone claims to hate them and yet they somehow get huge numbers.
Chuck Klosterman summed up the weird relationship with Nickelback nicely in a 2012 Grantland article.
I’ve never really understood all the vitriol directed the band’s way, let along the ugly public response to the surprise announcement of Chavril. Sure, a lot of their hits sound virtually identical and their music is basically watered-down Pearl Jam, but there are more important problems in the world get worked up about. Like Justin Bieber. And at least they seem to have a sense of humour about the lack of respect, as evidenced by their response to an online petition to stop them from playing at the Detroit Lions’ annual Thanksgiving Day halftime show in which they dressed up as local celebrities Tom Selleck, Alice Cooper, Dave Coulier and Robocop to try and win Detroit residents over.
The outcome of Saturday’s Canucks-Leafs game got a shout-out early in the set after Kroeger brought it up to show how happy the band is to be back in “the town this whole circus started.” Not to mention it being the first stop of the No Fixed Address tour that isn’t buried in snow.
In a seemingly self-aware nod midway through the show, he and Peake led a crowd singalong to “Take It Easy” and “Hotel California” by the Eagles, yet another chart-topping band the critics loved to hate. Kroeger also repeatedly drew attention to the fact backing guitarist/keyboardist Timmy Dawson, who jumped ship three years ago to work with more critically acclaimed acts such as Alice in Chains and System of a Down, had returned to the fold. Quite possibly with his tail between his legs.
“[Jerry] Cantrell is going to hate me for saying this, but there are maybe four girls at an Alice in Chains show,” he said to loud cheers from the female contingent of the audience, who made up roughly half of the crowd and drew the majority of the big-screen camera attention. “Nobody goes to their concerts hoping to pick someone up!”
There were also some moments of unintentional hilarity. After playing “Edge of a Revolution,” a quasi-Fugazi political battle hymn showing solidarity with the Occupy movement and meant to show the now middle-aged band members are capable of having a serious side, they followed it up with an apparently “traditional” concert experience where they fire T-shirts and lidless plastic cups of beer at the audience while slyly playing Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” in the background.
Who could possibly want multi-millionaires to throw beer in their faces while implying they are their puppets? Apparently Nickelback fans.
Another odd moment came when they played their disco-flavoured new single “She Keeps Me Up,” which currently has the interwebs in an angry uproar. Judging by the tepid response, even the diehards aren’t too thrilled with it either, although this was nothing a blast of pyrotechnics didn’t quickly fix.
For the obligatory encore, the band came out with a cover of the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong,” which I took as my cue to leave.
This is how they reminded me there are much better bands I could be listening to instead.
© 2015 Vancouver Courier