Friday, June 14, 2024

Nickelback: A redemption arc in Manchester

This may be an absurd statement for younger readers but at one point in time Nickelback wasn’t the coolest band in music despite having several platinum-selling records, dominating the charts and selling out arenas. They were an omnipresent force that people were likely just sick of but that was back in 2004.

20 years on and Nickelback are finally feeling the love they deserved with a largely sold out UK tour that stopped in Manchester with Leigh based indie/rock/pop act The Lottery Winners. 

The Lottery Winners came on first and it did feel gratifying hearing a local accent coming out of the PA system as frontman Thom Rylance immediately started chatting before the band had even played a note. His exuberance was warmly welcomed by the audience as he started the Freddie Mercury bit which was fun if a bit played out. 

The Lottery Winners strength comes from their ability to write simple and accessible earworms that have staying power without eventually becoming annoying. ‘Much Better’ has been on repeat in my brain since the show ended and given my complete inability to retain lyrics, that’s an impressive feat. 

In a world of constant social media marketing and calculated authenticity manufactured to boost sales and create parasocial attachments, it’s hard for the more cynical members to remove themselves from the feeling that every artist is just a mega corporation designed to take your lunch money. The Lottery Winners feel authentic and the love for their craft is there and the underdog positivity on tracks like ‘Letter to Myself’ and ‘You’re Not Alone’ really help that positivity shine through without coming off corny.

It’s worth noting that the writer of this article is from Wigan, a neighbouring town and rival to Leigh. The fact that I can say so many nice things about Leigh locals really does speak to how good The Lottery Winners are and you can catch them again in Wigan opening for Noel Gallagher. 

Shortly after a break, ‘Walk’ by Pantera was played over the speakers and that indicated the impending arrival of Nickelback. Nickelback have been leaning into heavier sounds lately and the opening track, ‘San Quentin,’ shows just how capable they are of being supremely heavy with its stomping drums and drop-tuned guitar work. 

Nickelback continued with the strip club anthem, ‘Animals,’ and it’s worth noting how good the tour visuals are. Sure, it can look like a PS2 cutscene at times but that adds to the charm of it as this yellow A Team van screeches across the desert dodging mythical creatures and explosions. The visuals perfectly capture the tone of the song which is all about being badass and doing cool stuff while looking awesome doing it. 

The whole set was full of massive choruses that were built for an arena: ‘Someday,’ ‘Savin’ Me’ and ‘Worthy To Say’ were all angsty yet hopeful rockers that are best experienced with thousands of drunk people all wearing cowboy hats and feeling their feelings in front of a group of Canadians. It’s a specific setting but it can be done. 

Lottery Winners came back on stage to help perform the iconic Oasis track, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. If ever there was a place to perform this song, it’s Manchester, the whole crowd lit up the arena with torches as they screamed one of the best tracks this city has ever released. 

The track was dedicated to the 22 victims of the arena bombings and it was really hard not to get emotional seeing the support and love this track inspired. The arena has been an important place for so many, including myself, and to see that music is still able to bring so many people together after such a horrible tragedy speaks to the power of music. 

Immediately after, Chad began talking about his place on the Internet and what the next song meant to all the different generations that have heard this song. ‘Photograph’ may be a goofy song but it has this wholesome authenticity about it. It’s a track that deals with remembering the past and while that has a sort of middle aged Facebook memories kind of tone, it’s the corniness that makes it feel that much more genuine and admirable. 

It’s also heartwarming knowing Chad has a sense of humour about his time as “the most memed guy on the f****** planet”.

“It’s time for some karaoke” said Chad as he brought a long haired gentleman on stage to perform ‘Rock Star’. This man was a spitting image of 2004 Chad Kroeger and even made Chad wonder whether it was time to grow his hair out again. ‘Rock Star’ was a radio staple back in the day and got constant airplay so hearing it live was a satisfying experience that 14 year old me would have enjoyed almost as much as 30 year old me did. 

One of the most fun parts of the show was the goofy back and forth between the band, Chad. Guitarist Ryan Peake had great on stage banter and that helped the show feel more like a group of friends coming together and just bros as they played a collection of their favourite songs.

The entire audience was waiting for one song, a song that dominated MTV in 2001 and helped make Silver Side Up into a cultural phenomenon: ‘How You Remind Me’. It’s really hard to listen to this song with fresh years considering how iconic it is but experiencing it live in a room full of nearly 20,000 people is a solid attempt at reinventing your listening experience. Nickelback seem to show this song the same respect they did when they first released it. Everyone in the audience knew all the lyrics and sang along beautifully with Chad with the same gusto and energy. 

Nickelback ended their set with the classic iconic WWE entry theme, ‘Burn It To The Ground,’ a 7 string barn burner that did the impossible and got even the most mild mannered audience members stomping and banging their heads. ‘Burn It To The Ground’ may be considered a butt rock anthem but at no point in this song do Nickelback half ass it. 

Nickelback are experiencing a renaissance, we live in a world where butt rock is no longer a bad thing and we can all finally admit to ourselves that Nickelback actually rock. If you’re on the fence about seeing Nickelback because of the backlash they got in the 2000s, 2024 is the best time to experience their live show. You will not regret it. 

Lamestream Lydia
Lamestream Lydia
Self-proclaimed journalist, Progressive rock enthusiast and the most American sounding person you're ever likely to meet in the North of England

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