|Nickelback / Monster Truck – Belfast, SSE Arena – 10 October 2016|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Sunday, 16 October 2016 17:47|
Nickelback are one of those bands that, to use a phrase we’ve repeated often in these pages, are a bit like Marmite: you either love them, or you absolutely loathe and detest them. Me? I just do my best to ignore them and hope they’ll go away… But, then, it had to happen: after years of dragging Missus A along to gigs by bands she doesn’t particularly like, she persuaded me into biting the bullet and heading out into the cold Autumn air to spend a couple of hours in the company of the Kroeger brothers on their first visit to our city since 2008’s ‘Dark Horse’ tour (fuck, haven’t we got off lightly all these years?)… At the initial thought of the whole thing, I’d probably have rather taken that bullet… but, what the hey? It would keep the little woman happy – and that’s the sort of things us blokes do!
Ironically, this return visit came on Canada’s Thanksgiving Day – and I can just imagine the thanks being raised by thousands of folks back across the Atlantic that the band regarded equally as one of their most revered and most reviled exports had decided to do just that, and export themselves to foreign shores for the occasion… But, that’s enough of the prevarication… and believe me I had done enough of that in the run up to this ignoble occasion…
It was good to see that a healthy crowd had made the effort to arrive early to catch openers Monster Truck: the floor of the arena was healthily sprinkled with bodies, and there were a good few pressed up to the stage front barrier. And the Canuck quartet get things off to a suitably high energy start, with their impactful and energized brand of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll, with its heavy, traditional blues-edged vibe. Sort of like a cross between a heavier Deep Purple and Airbourne with bigger grooves: the former comparisons are accentuated by Brandon Bliss’ swirling Hammond effects and the latter by Jeremy Wilderman’s stripped-to-waist non-stop duck-walking and jumping over monitors!
The four guys – completed by bassist/vocalist Jon Harvey and powerhouse drummer Steve Kiely – have a great onstage interaction and display a genuine sense of enjoyment, and they’re obviously revelling in playing on the big arena stage. A shoutout to the Belfast Giants ice hockey team and a guest appearance by the headliners’ Ryan Peake also help to further win the audience over, as the Truckers prove both the perfect antidote for the Monday evening blues and a good pairing for this tour. A band I wouldn’t mind seeing in the sweatier and more intimate environs of my local club pretty soon…
The 45-minute turnaround period gives yours truly the perfect excuse to indulge in people watching and play a couple of games. The first is spot the number of rock T-shirts in the crowd: the answer can be counted on the fingers of one hand… lumberjack shirts seem to be tonight’s uniform of choice… And the other is to spot the number of bored husbands obviously dragged along by their other halves: definitely a helluva lot more in this particular equation!
As I said, it’s a rather long turnaround, especially given the speed at which the stage is stripped: maybe the boul’ Chad had negotiated a cut-off the concession stands! When the band eventually do take the stage, at dead on 9pm, the audience is not so much eating hot dogs as out of his hand, as, right from the opening chord of ‘Edge Of A Revolution’ the place is literally bouncing – and, for the next 90 minutes, it doesn’t stop doing so.
The sound is very bottom heavy, making the band (deliberately?) sound a lot ballsier and louder than they do on record. Declaring that it’s “been way too long since we saw your beautiful faces” (eight years and 28 days to be precise, according to my step-daughter), Kroeger immediately decides to “get straight to the silly stuff” with ‘Something In Your Mouth’ – one of the few Nickelback songs I will actually admit to liking. By ‘Animals’ (the third song in), the majority of those who aren’t already doing so are almost unconsciously clapping along.
With no new album to promote – it’s been almost two years since ‘No Fixed Address’ – it’s very much a crowd-pleasing “greatest hits”-style set selection, with a healthy sprinkling of songs from each of their eight studio albums. Each – from the ubiquitous ‘phone waving of ‘Far Away’ and ‘Photograph’ to the strangely rousing ‘If Today Was Your Last Day’ to the inevitable main set closer of ‘How You Remind Me’ goes down a storm as this slick, well-oiled machine goes through all the appropriate gears. The only exception is the mid-set “jam” ‘Metaley!’ (well, that’s what it says on the setlist), which seems to confuse the living fuck out of about 85 per cent of the audience!
To be honest, I’ve only two real criticisms: the absolutely vomit-inducing karaoke version of that bile-riser ‘Rock Star’, and their awful encore version of the Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’… ugh, that was nasty! But, they soon blew that away with ‘Burn It To The Ground’, which actually threatened to just that, given the fierce reaction to it. In fact, it was a reaction which summarized the entire night, as it is rarely that I have seen a band who can evoke such a rabid and resonant response from a crowd for the entire length of their set… and fair play to them for giving those who had paid for their tickets value-for-money with one of nigh on 100 minutes in duration…
At the end of the night – and again I have to be brutally honest about this – Nickelback are a good live act. No, make that a great live act. Actually, let me go all the way: they’re a bloody great live act! They are a band who know their audience, know what they want to hear and deliver exactly that; they are a band built for arenas such as the one they packed out tonight. And nearly everyone present filed back into the night-time air with massive smiles on their faces and still singing the lyrics to one or more of the hit parade of songs they had just enjoyed: so, as far as Nickelback were concerned, it was job well and truly done for another show. For me? Well, they’re another one ticked off the list of once-in-a-lifetime never-to-be-repeated (literally) experiences. Been there, done that… didn’t buy the T-shirt (and didn’t even get one for the wife either…)!