Once you’ve heard one Nickelback song, you’ve pretty much heard them all.
The Canadian hard rock band takes a formulaic approach that pairs straightforward chords with gruff vocals. Singer-guitarist Chad Kroeger will sing a line and guitarist-keyboardist-backing vocalist Ryan Peake will repeat the line and inject a few lines of his own. Very little separates hits such as "How You Remind Me" and "Someday."
And yet, somehow, someway, the band has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide since forming 20 years ago. According to Billboard
, Nickelback event holds the title as the best-selling rock act of the 2000s.
Last night before a crowd of about 15,000 at Blossom, the band stayed true to form during a two-hour set that exposed the lack of musical diversity in the group’s material.
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
Playing on a two-tiered industrial looking set that glowed and spewed smoke on occasion, the band employed a heavy duty light show. For the opening number, “Feed the Machine,” the group cranked up the amps and rocked as hard as present-day Metallica, albeit without Lars Ulrich’s propulsive drumming behind the track.
The tune featured a rote mid-song guitar solo, and during the band's performance of it, the set looked like a Universal Studios theme park ride as the video monitor showed non-descript mechanical parts (mostly pipes and cranks), practically simulating a rollercoaster ride. The song ended with the sound of static (intentional, we think).
“Woke Up This Morning” came off as another generic hard rock anthem, and Kroeger, who looked a bit like the Marlboro Man with his cropped hair, neatly trimmed bear and tight black jeans, even let loose an exuberant “alright!” at its conclusion.
The band adhered to that same formula with songs such as “Too Bad” and “Song on Fire.”
The semi-acoustic ballad “Photograph” came off better as it put the band’s songwriting chops on display and allowed Peake and drummer Daniel Adair to add some delicate vocal harmonies that didn’t get washed out by Kroeger’s booming voice and loud guitars. “Lullaby” also benefited from the change in pace as Peake shifted to piano for the tender track, and the band brought singer-guitarist Chris Daughtry, whose band Daughtry opened the show, out to sing "Savin' Me." A powerhouse singer, Daughtry really added some dynamics to the tune.
The band wasted an opportunity to further show its range with a cover of the Eagles’ tune “Hotel California.” Kroeger began to sing the track but let the audience chant the lyrics and then cut the song short. Not sure why the guys even bothered to include the track in the 18-song set.
As much as we hate to admit it, the set-closing “How You Remind Me” remains one of the best power ballads of the last 20 years. The chorus, which the audience sang in unison, still strikes a chord and resonates. The lyrics even suggest the band has an introspect side (something you wouldn’t know from songs such as the simple-minded “Something In Your Mouth” and “When We Stand Together,” a tune that came as a shallow, dim-witted political campaign slogan).
Ultimately, the guys in Nickelback presented themselves as a bunch of overgrown frat boys who still like to brag about how much they drank the night before and who still call each “stud” and “buddy.” In fact, Kroeger and Co. often downed shots on stage and joked around with the poor roadie tasked with serving them throughout the set.
When Kroeger pulled two fans on stage to sing “Rock Star” with him, he couldn’t refrain from making a slew of MILF jokes about the woman he brought to the stage, all the while knowing that the woman's daughter was in attendance. Nice!
Opener Daughtry shared Nickelback’s affinity for formula. In songs such as “Home,” Daughtry and his bandmates paired power chords with simple choruses. For the ballad “Over You,” a standard break-up tune, he effectively enlisted the audience to sing the chorus with him, hoisting his guitar in the air and tossing his guitar pick into the audience at the song’s conclusion. The gesture perfectly set up the cliche-filled Nickelback set to come.