Ah Nickelback. The band that many love to hate, yet have ridden a wave of success to become one of the biggest modern rock bands on the planet. The turnout at the Genting Arena just goes to show that the fans far outnumber the haters, with people of all ages turning out to watch Chad Kroeger and co. churn out their numerous hits. This tour is in support of their latest album, Feed the Machine: an album that I think is a great return to form after the slightly dubious offerings on previous release, No Fixed Address. Needless to say, I was very excited going into the show, so excited that I almost forgot that first up was veteran grunge band, Seether.
With little in the way of fanfare, Seether came on stage and performed a very by-the-books set, covering a range of songs from across their discography, including fan favourites Fine Again and Fake It, plus a couple of songs off their latest album, Poison The Parish. You wouldn’t have thought that the band had any fan favourites from the crowd’s reaction though. There were clearly a few people who knew them scattered around but most of the audience were very British and just politely nodded alongto a band they didn’t really know. This was reflected in the bands performance which, while tight and well delivered, lacked energy. There was very little in the way of audience interaction and Seether just sped through their set before saying thank you and walking off. Which is a shame because the songs are good enough to deserve more but, as the band themselves acknowledged, the audience weren’t there for them.
Everyone hates that wait between the support band and the main act, so Nickelback kindly put a large countdown timer on the screen behind the stage to let you know how long was left. As it turns out this wasn’t even a countdown to the show starting, but to a short video where the band members all discussed their roots and the hard work they put in at the beginning of their career, ending with a message of ‘F**k you’ to anyone who thinks Nickelback are a ‘commercialised success story’. All very well and good but at their own shows they are preaching to the choir, so I didn’t really see the point of it. After another short wait the band finally appeared, launching straight in with the title track from the latest record, which was unfortunately the only song they would play from it! The rest of the evening was effectively a greatest hits show, covering all but one of their albums and including some rarely played highlights likeSide of a Bullet. All the bells and whistles you would expect from an arena rock show were present and correct (light show, huge screens, dry ice etc), making for a visually stunning performance. It was the between song chatter that provided half of the evenings entertainment, with Chad Kroeger tormenting their tour manager with requests for alcohol, repeatedly targeting members of the audience for jokes and seemingly just spurting out whatever thoughts popped into his head. Some of it was a bit wearing but for the most part was actually quite funny. A particular highlight was when he brought two members of the audience up on stage to sing Rockstar, teasing them about their lack of enthusiasm once stage fright hit and reminding them before they started that ‘Youtube is forever’. Rockstar was far from the only singalong moment of the evening, with Photograph, Someday and of course, How You Remind Me all being sung back from every corner of the arena. However, none of these songs show that Nickelback can write a mean riff. Sure, they are not ‘heavy’ in the grand scheme of things and often not that complicated, but songs like Burn It To The Ground, Million Miles An Hour and Animals should get any rock music fan nodding their head unless they are just being deliberately obtuse because of who wrote them.
At this point in their career, Nickelback have got their live performances down to a tee. There was very little, if anything, to criticise about the performance of any of the songs. Pretty much all of them were as per the recordings, just with some added roughness on the vocal tracks. It’s the fact that the band still just look like four friends having fun that makes the show more appealing and seem more genuine. If the band are enjoying themselves then the audience are more likely to as well. Given the diversity of the audience, they found the right balance between the upbeat rock songs and the slower singalong moments, even if personally I would have preferred a few more of the former, particularly from the new album (although playing Side of a Bullet went a long way towards redeeming that). When your number of albums is almost in double figures it is always hard to pick a setlist, but Nickelback clearly know their audience and threw in something to keep everyone happy, whether you like the heavier tracks or the ballads. If you like both then this show was a winner all round.
By David Steed