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Nickelback Live in Perth, Australia – 17 November 2012

| 21 November 2012 | Reply

Perth Arena, Western Australia
By Rob Walker | Photography by Jess June

Having seen Nickelback on their last tour for their album Dark Horse I was somewhat anxious to see if they could improve on perfection or adhere to the same level that had impressed me last time. The lights dimmed, the crowd roared as Pantera’s song “Walk” was cranked over the PA system – Nickelback have always been a band to pay homage to their predecessors and it was no different this time around.  Just when you thought the system couldn’t get any louder a pre recorded intro of “This Means War” was raised to volume 11. The black silhouettes of the guys standing on stage wearing their instruments like weapons ready for war forced the arena to erupt into applause. “Here And Now” is the name of their latest chart topping album & tour and Nickelback were exactly that, here and now with “This Means War”.

They took their positions on the front line: Ryan stage right with Mike stage left and Daniel behind the drums in the middle,  their leader in the middle out front, all dressed in black and it was hard to not see their influences. They looked like a clean cut polished version of their heroes Metallica and they are not shy to admit this. Daniel even donned a sleeveless freshly printed classic “Ride The Lightning” Metallica shirt.

Even though they hit us with all they had the crowd stood mainly still, choosing rather to enjoy the performance through their smart phone screens. Unfortunately this resulted in very strange vibe developing, like observing an animal through glass rather than getting up close and interacting with it.

By the third song “Bottoms up”, it was clear that Chad Kroeger was up for a party and so he should have been, as it was his 38th birthday after all. By this stage I thought to myself,  “Why are they not as good as last time?”, and at that stage the only thing I could put it down to was the disconnection they must have been feeling due to over 80% of the crowd recording them on their smart phones rather than absorbing the energy that was on offer.

The overall mix at this stage was decent but considering Nickelback are a world class act they deserve a world class mix. The drums were lost in the mix somewhat and the cymbals were not cutting through, this was not helped by Mikes bass being too loud. Chad’s vocal and guitar tone were great however things were about to get messy. It was during the fourth song “Photograph” that I noticed something not right. Most people would not have noticed as they were too busy singing the chorus but in an attempt to recreate their studio sound the guys seem to have incorporated pre-recorded backup vocals. The sound tech had these poorly mixed and it sounded like Nickelback were singing along to themselves on Singstar or something to that effect.

It was a testament to Chad’s vocal improvement and stamina as he daringly placed “Animal” less than halfway through the set. Last tour he made a note to tell us all, due to the strain it puts on him he leaves it until the end of the show. This time he pulled it off without missing a beat or more importantly a breath.  On their 8th song “Trying Not To Love You” they were let down yet again by their sound crew. The signature sound of the main guitar riff was so different to the recorded version that even people around me were saying to each other something doesn’t sound right. All these negatives unfortunately are sound tech and guitar tech responsibilities. Nickelback don’t step on their own guitar pedals or pull their own sounds. Everything is done for them. This has its benefits but also as I’ve outlined it has its downfalls.

The next few songs were at the same level as the songs prior. The guys pulling out hit after hit until reaching the point in the show where they shoot T-shirts into the crowd and throw beer at people. It was then time for yet another commercial radio hit “Lullaby”. Ryan traded his guitar for a piano and Chad went without a guitar focusing on just singing. I felt they had played it safe – it was like a rock concert by numbers. Being a Nickelback fan I’m constantly getting abuse from people running them into the ground. Playing concerts like they just did does not help the cause. They have so much more integrity on their albums that nobody hears. They make their money by writing the 3.30min commercial radio songs but they have so much more to offer and they are letting their true fans down and themselves by just giving a greatest radio hits concert.

A few more hits passed and wait for it….. Another hit! “When We Stand Together” was their first single off the latest album and this one sounded very messy! The pre-recorded vocals were made even worse by Daniel’s off key backup singing. Though he did redeem himself with an out of this world drum solo. That man would have to have at least four brains inside that head of his to be able to pull off those conflicting beats and back beats all while spinning his sticks.

It was during “How You Remind Me” – the song that had introduced Nickelback to Australia back in 2001 – that Chad’s voice failed. It may have been from the constant singing or the constant drinking of alcohol he was doing but it was passable none the less. The lights dimmed and it was time for the cliché encore, though it took them a bit longer than normal to come out. Chad would have needed to do some vocal restoration before he came back out judging by his fatigued voice, before encoring with “Gotta Be Somebody” and “Burn It To The Ground”. Yep, they played it safe again.

To sum it up, Nickelback have become a corporation – a money making hit machine, and I understand why there are haters. They are becoming too smart for their own good and losing integrity. Some may say “did they ever have integrity?”  Well unless you have listened to their first EP Curb and every song off every album since then, you won’t know the answer to that question. For the average radio listener who has no idea what they are listening to and quite often likes a song if it “has a good beat” then they would have been blown away by the show but for dedicated fans/purists and people who listen to guitar tones and harmonies, they would have been feeling like the show just didn’t hit the spot compared to what Nickelback is capable of doing.

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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