Nickelback at the 3Arena, Dublin, on 9th October 2016
Back in 2008 Nickelback played a blinder in the RDS Simmonscourt, where this reviewer, then only a pimply faced teenager, was awestruck by the sheer spectacle of the performance. The pyrotechnics. The anthems. The energy. It was a real rock n’ roll show. Or was it? Eight years later they return to the 3Arena after a prolonged absence, bringing with them an extended bag of hits, and some very difficult questions for this reviewer to address.
Was it all an illusion? An adolescent blur of hormones and angst? Despite their unquestionable success, any critic worth his salt must address the fact that their music has its place, but it is not going to break any new ground. Ever. It doesn’t even want to. It is surface-level superficiality and everyone seems to be okay with it.
Against a backdrop of revolutionary imagery, and the word “Obey” flashing subliminally across the screens, the band makes their pitch with opener Edge of a Revolution (the first of only two songs from their most recent album. Hmmmm). “What do we want? WE WANT CHANGE! How we gonna get there? REVOLUTION!” While perhaps a little contrived considering their usual thematic content, it is surprising that they do not invite audience participation in a song that could not possibly have been created without audience participation in mind.
“Dublin!”. Chad Kroeger is pumped. After addressing their lack of shows in Ireland, he proceeds with the usual pleasantries. “We fucking love this country. We love this fucking town”. The audience is delighted. Not waiting long to jump headlong into the Irish drinking stereotype, Kroeger tells the audience in his best Irish accent about being out having a “couple of pints”. Further applause. Of course.
Hard rocker Something In Your Mouth is up next where Kroeger spontaneously yells “You know you do ladies!” after the first chorus explains why women look so much cuter with a certain mysterious something in their mouth. It’s crude. It’s risky. It’s cocky (pardon the pun). But it works! His swagger is infectious and he owns the stage. He’s an audacious frontman who is rewarded for his candour (except later during his vaguely insulting imitation of a drunken Irishman, stumbling and mumbling the Ole chant. Yeah…we didn’t like that. It was uncomfortable).
Anyway, the crowd is having fun. And that’s what the band is about. Too Bad sees a cameraman join the band onstage to record the crowd jumping up and down. It’s a strong performance, partly because of the quality of the track itself. From here the hits keep coming. Far Away (which is dedicated to the ladies. Chad loves the ladies), Photograph (complete with cheesy photo montage), Someday. They’re all there. The nostalgia is permeating the arena.
Lullaby stands out as a powerful performance which sees the lead singer leave aside his guitar so he can reach out to individually shake the fans’ hands. It is a tremendously powerful track that fulfils its potential in a live capacity. Vocal duties are shared during Figured You Out which features a well executed mic toss from Kroeger to guitarist Ryan Peake, who oozes rockstar energy. Speaking of rockstars, ‘Rockstar’ sees a member of the audience joining the lads on stage. No need to be nervous, says Kroeger. “Just remember one thing. YouTube is forever”. It’s all good fun and the lad did a fine job.
Other highlights include a rocking medley of some of the bands heavier tracks. How You Remind Me was never going to disappoint (even though Kroeger didn’t sound great on the Late Late Show Friday night!). Because the band depends on bombastic, high octane performances, moments like the acoustic Mistake loses the crowd. What Are You Waiting For? and Gotta Be Someday are interchangeable.
The band conclude with a Peake-led cover of Foo Fighter’s iconic Everlong and a solid rendition of the perfect closer Burn It To The Ground. In many ways the show is a nostalgia trip. A cheap thrill of unapologetic entertainment. Whether or not you are okay with this largely determines whether the show receives high praise or an apathetic shrug of the shoulders. While much of this reviewer’s feelings for the band have faded over time, what’s left is an acceptance that it’s okay to like Nickelback for what they are and what they do live. A solid performance, if you’re into that kind of thing.