Despite furious flames and ear rupturing explosions, the lack of substance offered by Nickelback still sours the experience. General Motors Place played host to a trio of bands all playing a heavier pop rock style. Sick Puppies, from Australia, incited the mundane spark, delivering an aggressively typical performance. Shinedown, the foursome from Florida, carried the average by bringing surprisingly great instrumentals buried in sea of unfortunate vocals. To cap the show was the poster child for selling out, Nickelback. Their cultivation of catering to the lowest common denominator, combined with their complete awkwardness on stage was astounding. As a complete presentation, it was mediocrity in the flesh. Something that had the soul sucked from it and replaced with dollar signs, it was the perversion of the music industry before your very eyes.
Entering the stadium, it was clear the audience was of a questionable level of taste. It would be nearly impossible to distinguish this horde with that which would be attending any Pay-Per-View broadcast of a UFC event. The female portion of the fleshy sea was a gathering of mini skirts, halter tops and impossibly tall high heels. The male component, was a range of Affliction shirts and wife beaters combined with tribal tattoos, and vacant alcohol, fueled gazes. Every few minutes, the halls of the Garage would be filled with some drunkard emitting “Yeah!” in a long drawn out howl. A smaller portion of the attendees were lost, people who were truly undecided musically, and seemed clung to something popular and thus safe in their minds. It was a site to see.
Taking to the stage the three piece from Down Under, Sick Puppies, seemed amped to deliver. The initial portion of the set showed off some true metal roots appreciation. Devilishly delectable guitar riffs, high energy bass and wild man drums, the kind of spastic rapping of the drums that you can appreciate and ultimately connect with. But then as if some corporate number cruncher from side stage, took his magic wand and tapped twice on the band, they turned a complete 180. The more well known songs started to emerge, the ones that have been polished, reviewed by focus groups and polished again. The filthy vocals from the start were now replaced with something resembling those of Elton John, a near perfect facsimile. The instruments took a lower subtler feel and soon it was a regurgitation. A complete farce of musical integrity started to take shape. The band was capable of digging deep and playing stellar material, the pieces are all there but they gave in. They sold out to make a popular batch of songs for money; it was disappointing.
After a very brief pause in the action, Shinedown soon stood confidently before the mass. The quartet identified with the audience immediately, with various rockstar’esque rants. Being the last stop on a world tour you would expect the members of any band to be tired, strained and ready for some rest. At first it did not seem to affect the pre-set interaction. The band lept around the stage almost like they were inspired to start playing. That changed when the first lyric shot from the mouth of Brent Smith, his voice was gone. Despite the hard work of the instruments backing him, his voice was destroyed. It was hard to watch as he strained to hit anything resembling a note. His high end was outright absent, it was abysmal.
As it was obvious he would do anything not to sing, Smith strutted the stage speaking to the audience. Proclaiming that everyone should demand Shinedown be played on the radio. At the end of each song, he would chirp up, asking for applause and cheering. In a way it was sad to see, nothing was natural. No interaction between the band and the crowd flowed freely, it was forced. The shell shocked, sheep that flocked at his feet, followed along, not even thinking that it was strange to fulfill such requests. All that can be said is that the players tried hard, the singer is arrogant, vaguely reminiscent look of a young Bono but in suit and tie, and the mob of eager were easily persuaded; it was sad.
During a longer than normal break, the floor emptied; as I am sure there were strategically placed cans of Lucky Lager that needed to be consumed. While the eager filtered back in the lights extinguished, and a charge of unexpected explosions grabbed the attention of the fanatics. The stage was soon manned by Nickelback, and the people before him were losing it. Kroeger and Co. jumped into their set, and at first it seemed like something you could appreciate. It seemed like something you could commit to enjoying. But looks can be deceiving.
Attending a live show by this four piece, is something like seeing a really feminine cross dresser. At first your animal instinct takes over and you find yourself starting to feel those familiar feelings. Those signals from your subconscious start to travel through your body and your brain releases some dopamine. But then you realize , that this is not a woman, this is a man, its a mere visual mimic of what you would normally see. This is a perfect representation of Nickelback, at first everything seems decent. There is a rhythm, and overlaying texture, you have a vocalist, huge flames, moving stage components, screens, and its really, really loud. But then you realize Chad Kroeger just said “You look better with something in your mouth” and its gone. The chameleon like copy catting of real musicians is uncovered and the cheap cross dresser truly reveals themselves for what they are.
The course of the evening from that point is down hill. Kroeger starts to egg on his band mate to drink Jagger Bombs between each song. Within five or so, the front man is sweating profusely, and slurring not only his words but his lyrics. Much like the opener, Shinedown, Chad decided to speak way more than was necessary. Wait speaking may be the wrong way to put it, he screamed his point across in a kind of strange near singing style; it was hard to bare witness to.
At various points through the night, the band offered up highballs to the crowd. Not in the normal way you might see Tommy Lee pass a bottle of Jack Daniels down and tell them to keep it going around. This band asked the members of the audience in select areas to present their drivers license, and if you were of age they would provide you a red plastic cup and pour some booze into it via a Tupperware jug. This is not a rock band, this is not a normal concert etiquette, this is strange and thought out. Providing alcohol to a crowd is a spur of the moment move to show you connection with the fans and show you want to be a part of them and be at one with them. This was something that was thought up in a brainstorming session by corporate high ups, it was pathetic.
The culmination of the aurdiences energy was during two moments, during two separate sing alongs. These were during covers of Journeys Don’t Stop Believing and Garth Brooks Friends In Low Places. The thrall of maniacal drunks lit up, they sang as though their lives depended on it. Then after the power of those two pieces past, Kroeger announced he wanted people to sing even louder to the next song, as he dove back into his own material. The fans didn’t bite, and it was a little sad to watch.
The final straw of this over cocky presentation was the overuse of cheesy applause statements. The type of statements made by every band to make you feel special, such things as “Hello! “Insert City Name Here”, did you know you are the sexiest city ever”. Statements such as this were the fashion of the evening and thrown around like it was fact. Like they had never been at another show where they were as impressed with the audience, with the city or even with the quality of the drugs available as the ones before them. It was laughable to say the least. It is something used to get cheap applause, and that is what they got.
All in all Nickelback did have some items going for them. They had a great stage setup, which is not the bands department to create. They had amazing pyrotechnics, which is not the bands department to maintain. They speaker system was extremely clear and well setup, which is of course not the bands department. So overall they had little substance to present, but they played it loud and appeared to be dedicated to it. The only piece I would say that was positive was the fact that they had fun. The entire band was enjoying themselves through the whole show, this is the one and only piece I can give them. The respect meter for them can raise a smidgen, from absolutely, self-involved, mass-market, music makers, to absolutely, self-involved, mass-market, music makers who enjoy themselves on stage. Nickelback takes the idea of being an ignoramus and amplifies it as a lifestyle, no one should take pride in that.