Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Tonight marks the third time I have seen Nickelback live in Ireland. The first was in 2002 at the iconic Slane Castle, joining a mediocre lineup topped by Stereophonics. The second was in December of that same year when they headlined the Point Depot while touring their hugely popular Silver Side Up album and riding on the success of hit single ‘How You Remind Me’. It’s hard to believe that was 14 years ago. Tonight, in that same venue, now dubbed the 3Arena, it looks like many of those who were here with me last time are here again tonight with their wives and husbands. It’s definitely a very coupley crowd of thirty-somethings, at least from my vantage point away from the crush near the stage. To be honest, I was skeptical when I heard the choice of venue for the show, thinking the Olympia would be less ambitious and a better atmosphere. And while it’s far from capacity, a very respectable crowd have packed themselves into the lower tiers of seating and have almost filled the inner circle of the standing area.
Admittedly, in the decade and a half, since Silver Side Up was released, I had not paid much attention to what Nickelback was up to. My tastes were directed to heavier genres, and the Canadians’ music seemed a bit too “poppy” for me, but tonight I was looking forward to catching up.
Starting more than twenty minutes later than scheduled, the quartet casually struts on stage to whoops and cheers from the fans. Opening track ‘Edge of a Revolution’, from their last album No Fixed Address released almost two years ago, is accompanied on three big screens by images of war and uprising while the word “Obey” flashes periodically. The stage setup is relatively uncomplicated; a drum riser and platform, two short ramps either side into the front rows, and some very bright lights which illuminate everything nicely. The band themselves are energetic and well groomed (the days of long hair are gone). This is simply stadium rock with no frivolous gimmicks or pomp. Without the distractions and decorations so often employed by their peers, the music needs to be perfect; and I’m happy to admit that it is. Everything is well-balanced, and front man Chad Kroeger’s voice sounds as sharp as it did the first time I heard their music.
“Dublin, it’s been way too fucking long”, Chad declares after the first track and proceeds to blame their agents for the lengthy absence. “We didn’t just fly in tonight either. We’ve been here a few days, and we’ve been out having a few pints” he adds in his best Irish brogue. In a very relaxed manner, he banters regularly throughout the night, and genuinely seems to feel a connection to the Dublin audience, and promises to do some fun silly shit, continuing the set with the tongue-in-cheek ‘Something in your Mouth’ from Dark Horse.
Throughout the set, they perform tracks from most of their albums, with just two taken from their most recent release. More to my surprise; only two are drawn from Silver Side Up; ‘Too Bad’ and the obligatory ‘How You Remind Me’, thus disproving my impression that the album had been the pinnacle of their career. They also find time to play two covers; a front-of-stage acoustic ‘Mistake’ by Big Wreck, which appears to lose the attention of the audience as the chatter noticeably increases in volume and ‘Everlong’ by Foo Fighters; sung by guitarist Ryan Peake as part of the two-track encore.
On a few occasions, Chad makes reference to the drinking habits of the Irish, and most are well received by the jovial audience, but his impression of a drunken Irishman stumbling around Temple Bar at 5am slurring an off-key “Ole ole ole” seem a bit more like ridicule than humorous observation.
With the show well in its second half, Chad announces that it’s karaoke time, and asks for a volunteer to join them onstage to sing ‘Rockstar’, another commercially successful single for the band in 2006. One brave lad from the front row takes up the challenge and is escorted to the microphone alongside the frontman, before enduring Chad’s attempts to slag and humiliate him in front of his never-to-be girlfriend and thousands of complete strangers. Despite a gentle reminder that YouTube is forever, the young man actually does a stellar job with his best Chad Kroeger impression, showing no sign of nerves or need for the teleprompter. Nailed it!
The show closes with ‘Burn it to the Ground’ from Dark Horse before the guys toss out some picks and sticks to the fans. Overall, a well-produced and engineered show, delivering polished stadium rock to the 3 Arena. Well worth checking out, even if you had forgotten about Nickelback for over a decade, like me!