Nickelback did an impressive thing on Thursday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC: they made an arena show feel like a gathering at the local bar watching your favourite local band. What’s cool about these guys is no matter how much money goes into the spectacle that is their show, they stay humble and don’t forget their roots. They played songs representing every era of their lengthy tenure as a band from the heavy as hell title track to their latest album Feed the Machine to equally heavy older cuts like “Woke Up This Morning” and “Where Do I Hide.” They even snuck in a cover of the Tragically Hip track “Blow at High Dough” during their early single “Too Bad.”
Even though the stage was constructed with a larger than life screen projecting song-specific images over the band’s playing, the focus was still on them. They’ve been blessed enough to have gone through very few line-up changes and the comfort they feel with each other showed while they performed. The chemistry between frontman Chad Kroeger and guitarist Ryan Peake was particularly entertaining. Some highlights of their chemistry included Kroeger pressuring Peake to attempt to speak French (he tried folks, he tried) or offering him a full verse in the classic Spider-Man tune “Hero.” Speaking of which, did you know that the song is about smoking weed? I mean, yeah, obviously I totally did too, but it was really funny hearing Chad explicitly detail that fact before playing the song: “Didn’t you think it was a little weird that the first line goes, ‘I am so high I can hear heaven’? I wasn’t talking about Spider-Man, I was talking about me!’”
If he loves to smoke, he sure loves to drink too. There were shots being poured left and right on the Nickelback stage. At one point they downed half a bottle of Jager just to prove that they weren’t faking the on-stage antics. By the end of the show, Kroeger was huffing and puffing with the best of the neighbourhood drunks, exclaiming how funny it would be if he threw up on stage and how it would definitely be the next major social media thing. They performed excellently despite the alcohol. Anyone who claims this band can’t reproduce their sound properly live has never seen them live, it’s as simple as that. Even songs like “Savin Me” and “When We Stand Together” which rely on some devious studio tricks sounded on point. At one point Kroeger even belted a snippet of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” with impressive accuracy.
Whether or not the thousands of people at the show admitted to anyone the next day that they sang along at the top of their lungs to “Photograph” or how they wished they could find Chad after the show when he offered to take literally every one of them out for drinks on him during “This Afternoon” is irrelevant. The point is that everyone there couldn’t have helped but to feel – if only for the duration of the impressive 20 song set – that Chad Kroeger was their best drinking buddy, that Nickelback was their favourite band, and that they wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy