Nickelback pleases Boston faithful

A review of Nickelback at the Comcast Center on July 24, 2009

, Staff Writer

Touring in support of their latest album, 2008’s Dark Horse, Nickelback hit the Comcast Center in Mansfield on Friday. Despite being many critics’s whipping post, the Canadian rockers have amassed a very strong following over the past decade and they filled the summer shed to near-capacity.
Nickelback did not disappoint their huge and devoted fanbase, playing a nearly two-hour set that spanned their biggest hits and included choice covers here and there. Though the band didn’t have very many surprises to offer, they do what they do extraordinarily well. The sound quality was impeccable, in particular frontman Chad Kroeger’s vocals, as he sang violently and loudly while managing to keep a certain clarity so none of the lyrics sounded muddled or rushed through.

Busting out Dark Horse’s lead single “Something In Your Mouth” got the crowd immediately amped, aided largely by Daniel Adair’s succinct and relentless drumming.& “Because of You” followed before the band slowed things down after a couple songs with “Photograph”, with Kroeger’s vocals sounding clearly over the slow-moving pad provided by the rest of the group. They then immediately dirtied things up with “Figured You Out”, a pretty overtly sexual song that made me question what all the young’uns were doing in the crowd (there were kids in the show who couldn’t have been older than ten, and plenty of eye-rolling parents, to boot).

Nickelback have been around for nearly fifteen years and as such are very comfortable on stage. The band is a tight ensemble and they play with ridiculously high energy. Of course, Nickelback was also backed by a stellar arena-rock stage show. The band was often covered in a deep red tint with small green flames blazing up from time to time, and then of course the big pyro explosions at the concert’s more climactic moments. The whole thing was definitely a spectacle, and was probably a large part of the appeal to their fans. There was a certain cathartic nature to the show, very Dionysian in its execution. People were screaming, cheering, and violently dancing the entire show. A number of mosh pits spontaneously erupted with an impressive frequency and girls shamelessly flashed cameramen in an effort to get their hands on backstage passes.

Kroeger kept a very pleasant rapport going with the audience throughout the performance. He joked about his mother being at the performance, and probably having left after half an hour due to his continual cursing. There was a certain playfulness to his whole stage persona that contrasted nicely with the, well, not-so-playful subject matter Nickelback’s cover song selections. One surprise bust-out of the evening was the first couple minutes of Garth Brooks’ “Friends In Low Places”. Kroeger’s country voice is actually pretty good, and he got a big sing-along out of it, which raises the question as to how much fan crossover there is between Nickelback and Garth Brooks?

Another notable performance was “If Today Was Your Last Day”, one of the singles off Dark Horse – nothing really separates the song from anything else the band has done, but they seemed happy to be playing it, and the audience absolutely loved it. Continuing with surprising covers, Nickelback threw down AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” towards the end of the set. Adair took a pretty lengthy solo at one point, showing off his chops as he moved from one beat to the next seamlessly, working the double bass pedal like it was nobody’s business. And, of course, they played “How You Remind Me” off 2001’s Silver Side Up, which surprised nobody and pleased everybody.

So, Nickelback may represent what’s wrong with the industry these days – you could say they’re derivative, unoriginal, sell-outs (they’ve got what is essentially an all-encompassing “360” contract with Live Nation), and it wouldn’t be wrong. But they bring a spectacle to their show that doesn’t come around so often, a throwback to the arena rock shows of old that boasts humongous pyrotechnics, tremendous speaker towers, and some heavy distortion. They’re not exactly an artistic tour de force, but the band is perfect for some loud, mindless music to headbang to on a Friday night.

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