Nickelback, Bush, Seether, My Darkest Days Toyota Center June 2, 2012
While the rest of the Rocks Off crew at Summer Fest was settling in for a long night of Snoop Dogg, Flaming Lips, and more, this guy was leaving the Fest and making the short trip over to the Toyota Center for Saturday night's big rock show featuring Nickelback, Bush, Seether, and My Darkest Days.
From the top of the building on down to the special $400-plus per ticket VIP section it was packed, with only a handful of empty seats in the building. It was a crowd that showed up excited, almost giddy, at the chance to see the biggest band in North America live and in person.
They got a show that was full to the brim of with your standard rock clichés, from the opening act mentioning the headliner for a cheap pop all the way to the big rock drum solo.
They loved every minute of it.
The life of a blogger's festival weekend is fun but exhausting. It involves long hours in the sun, multiple bottles of water, and a lot of scribbling in a notebook.
If you're reading this blog, you probably already know how you feel about Nickelback. Since my job in this instance is to report back what I observed, rather than try and change your opinion of the band, I'm dumping the entire contents of my notebook here for your reading pleasure.
35 Things I Wrote Down During A Nickelback Concert:
MY DARKEST DAYS
1. So far we have a leather vest, a Mohawk, and some wallet chains. Did these guys buy a "generic rock band fashion" starter pack somewhere?
2. These guys could stand to be a bit more confident in themselves. Mentioning the headliner before your first song is over is a sign of weakness, whether the audience realizes it or not.
3. On the plus side, they're promoting safe sex by tossing condoms out in to the crowd.
4. These guys have the easiest gig in rock: they're signed to Chad Kroeger's production company so they've got the might of Nickelback behind them, the label paid to have Zakk Wylde and Ludacris guest on their first single, and they only have to play 4 songs a night on this tour.
5. Still, they write perfectly acceptable radio-rock that works in this setting. They'll do well as a replacement for when Theory of a Deadman doesn't have a single out.
6. Nickelback has a commercial playing between acts that advertises their merch. I'm not sure what the target audience for this is. Are people at a rock concert unaware that there are goods they can purchase with the band's logo on it?
7. Still, a baby with a bottle trying to sell me a Nickelback onesie while "Bottoms Up" plays in the background is kind of adorable. Awkward, but adorable.
8. They played videos in the side screens while the band was performing that had nothing to do with any of the songs themselves. They were like a weird combination of Tool music video, Silent Hill cut scene, and Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark illustration, with the occasional clown. Weird call.
9. Shaun Morgan has some pipes on him. What he lacks in stage presence he makes up with great vocals.
10. Toyota Center was almost completely full about halfway into their set, bucking that whole "people only show up for the headliner" theory. Probably the most shocking thing all weekend.
11. The true sign that a crowd is in a good mood: they're pumping their fists during the second bands set without any prompting.
12. Nice move to give each member of the band a moment to shine during "Remedy". These guys are way more talented than they get credit for.
13. Seether are probably too big for a tour like this. They could be headlining venues on their own.
14. Rather than use a hanging banner, this tour is using a digital display for the band's logos. Awful decision, but mostly because the artwork they're using is lame.
15. A lot of people in this audience look like they dropped their kids off at Summer Fest earlier today and are cutting lose on their night away from them.
16. Show got off to a weird start as a member of the crew couldn't quite get a piece of wireless gear to stick to Gavin Rossdale.
17. Once he was on stage for real, it was pretty obvious from the screams and arm waving that the girls still love the guy.
18. Not sure who or what the Bush Army is, but they have signs and are legion at the front of the of the GA section.
19. In terms of fashion, these guys are the exact opposite of My Darkest Days. Each guy is wearing his own thing independent of the others and they all look like they're wearing the things they'd wear when not on tour.
20. Between his songwriting abilities, good looks, and ability to connect with a crowd it's a mystery as to why Rossdale wasn't a bigger rock star. Maybe the band's grunge sound held him back.
21. Speaking of connecting with the crowd, the man is fearless as he runs in to the stands and around the arena, up flights of stairs and through rows of people. He never misses a word even as people stop him for hugs, back pats, and kisses on the check. He made so many people's night in the span of two songs.
22. Seriously, the guy's good looks just stunned woman in to complete stillness and awe.
23. The live version of "Glycerine" has a full band ending that's pretty rad. Could go for a studio version of that.
24. I'm sure something about this line up violates the arbitrary rules I have about band reunions, but I can't deny that this line up is fierce. The band is really in sync with each other and it's a joy to watch.
25. They played a dance remix of "Sound of Winter" as Bush left the stage. I feel like my Bush/Diplo crossover idea has legs if we can just get them in a room together.
26. This was a ballsy move by Nickelback to book a band as good as Bush for this tour. They could have had anyone as direct support and they went with a band that has songs people know and a super charismatic lead singer. It's a lot to live up to.
27. That said, two more bands and they'd have a pretty good festival tour line up. There's probably more money in this though.
28. The crowd is singing along to the tracks being played between acts. "Back In Black" went over really well.
29. Technically this show is as impressive as anything I've seen at a big pop or hip hop arena show. Moving video screens, graphics synced up over multiple levels, and treadmills built in to the stage are just a handful of interesting things during the first few songs.
30. That said, there are way too many explosions in this show. Fire is awesome, fireworks are even better, but just having something explode without any visual to go with it is annoying. The only time it's acceptable is during the very end of "Something In Your Mouth".
31. Say what you want about the guy, but Chad Kroeger knows who he is and who people think he is. Someone in the audience caught his attention, and after some back and forth he pointed out that if he beat the guy up, the guy would have to deal with "being the guy who got beat up by the guy in Nickelback". No one wants to be that guy.
32. They have a flying stage on this tour. Perhaps floating is a more accurate term. The band climbs up, starts playing, and the stage goes straight up in the air then starts to slowly spin. It's a pretty neat trick, but if you paid over $400 for VIP tickets wouldn't you be a little annoyed the band spends five songs hanging out over in General Admission.
33. These guys make the big rock show look easy. Is a lot of it cliché? Sure. There was no need for half of the drum solo that came near the end of their set, but the crowd ate up every second of it. Things like that don't have to work for every member of the audience, just most of them.
34. Independent of any personal feelings about the band and their music, it would be hard to say that don't at least try and put on a good show. They could easily sleepwalk through this part of the job and still make tons of money in the process, but they spend the money to put on a production and that's something I can respect.
35. The true secret of Nickelback is not that every song sounds the same. It's not that they only have two songs: Saccharine ballads and up-tempo rockers. The secret is this: You can sing about whatever stupid, sappy, clichéd thing you want in a slow song, be it photographs of the past or just not wanting to be alone, as long as every other song is hyper-macho. Not only is spousal abuse bad, but you have to threaten to beat the crap out of the abuser. You're not just going to drink; you're going to get batshit crazy. Play in those mainstream extremes and you'll go far.
Personal Bias: I've seen Nickelback twice going to see other bands at radio festivals. Both of these were before they became "the most hated band that actually plays instruments in the world". The only difference I noticed was that people didn't sing "How You Remind Me" nearly as loud as they had in the past.
The Crowd: Women dressed in their best soccer-mom-chic attire, people who prove that there's a thriving plastic surgery industry in this town, guys in all black who like to drink and sing, and some Texans Cheerleaders who made a cameo appearance onstage.
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Overhead In The Crowd: "Be like the captain, make it happen," said the man with one foot on an invisible box.
Random Thought: Between his new shorter haircut, the fact he plays an explorer on some songs, the pyro in the show, his vocal quirks, and the fact that he mentioned alcohol a lot, Chad Kroeger is rapidly morphing in to Load-era James Hetfield.