Reviewing Nickelback in honour of pot-lovin’, hard-rock musicians from Alberta

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photo by Luke Seagrave

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 31, 2002

By Steve Newton

For more than 10 years I rented a dumpy old house near 58th and Main that was known as the Rock Palace because of the all-night rock-’n’-roll parties held there. The best thing about those cop-attended bashes was when these pot-lovin’, hard-rock musicians from Alberta would show up. They were all Red Deer transplants who played in a local band called Mad Duck, and sported crazy names like Stick, Herms, Terr-Bear, and Dale. As long as those four fun-loving hooligans were in the house, the parties were a hit.

So it was partly my fondness for pot-lovin’, hard-rock musicians from Alberta that drew me out to the Coliseum last Friday (October 25) to see Nickelback. That, and the fact that the Vancouver-based quartet originally from Hanna, Alberta, had gone from being local club faves to multiplatinum arena-rockers in an astonishingly short period of time. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

“Well, it’s awfully fucking nice to be home!” clamoured Nickelback leader Chad Kroeger after the band had taken the stage to a KISS-sized pyrotechnic blast. “Now let’s get the roof off this fucker!” The 13,000 or so fans in the nearly sold-out venue howled in agreement, and, as 20-foot flames spewed upward behind it, the group unleashed its raucous, grunge-inspired noise on the stoked-up crowd. I hadn’t seen such a frenzied mass of roiling bodies on the Coliseum floor since ZZ Top played there during its mid-’80s heyday, and I’d never seen so many female body-surfers being vaulted over the stage barrier. Unlike other leading hard-rock acts such as Metallica and AC/DC, Nickelback seems to have effectively honed in on the young-girl market. There were also quite a few 10-and-under kids in the crowd, accompanied by their 40-ish parents. You don’t move four million albums in a year without appealing to a wide demographic.

But as far as the music goes, the reason for the band’s immense popularity still eludes me; I had to sit through seven or eight tunes before one came along that I really enjoyed. The first was “Never Again”, a sharp-edged rocker with a “Janie’s Got a Gun”–style message of extreme female empowerment.

“Too Bad”, another track off the breakthrough Silver Side Up CD, also hooked me, but the vast majority of Nickelback’s material came off as little more than metallicized Pearl Jam. That’s what North America’s modern-rock radio stations are feeding kids these days, and they’re obviously lapping it up, hence the indecipherable success of an act like Creed.

But as meteoric as Nickelback’s airplay-driven rise to fame has been, you’ve also gotta wonder how quick its subsequent fall from grace could be.

Kroeger, for one, isn’t waiting around to find out—he’s using his newfound celebrity to get songs in Hollywood blockbusters (the Spider-Man soundtrack’s “Hero”), and to score a guest spot on the star-studded new Santana CD. He’s also exercising his pull in the music biz to help out his buddies in the local rock acts Default and Theory of a Deadman. (The former has been benefiting from the opening slot on Nickelback’s world tour; the latter was signed to Kroeger’s own label, 604 Records.)

Of course, any doubts raised about Nickelback’s credibility or staying power would have been drowned out last Friday by several thousand voices singing every single word to the group’s undeniably catchy, career-making hit, “How You Remind Me”. And besides, you can’t complain about the fact that the music world now recognizes Canada for a band of pot-lovin’, hard-rock musicians from Alberta, as opposed to the lame-o likes of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and the Barenaked Ladies.

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