For 17 years, Canadian rock band Nickelback has been selling tens of millions of albums to a legion of appreciative followers – while not exactly making fans of the critics.
The group’s detractors even include the Washington State Democrats. After Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna said in May that he was a Nickelback fan, the Democrats sent out a press release using the band’s lyrics to poke fun at McKenna. Titled “Rob McKenna’s Week, according to Nickelback,” the missive came complete with a doctored photo of McKenna performing with Nickelback.
The group plays the Tacoma Dome on Saturday with Bush, Seether and My Darkest Days, and the fans are ready to pack the place. Early this week, seats were available only at the back of the dome, although general admission tickets providing admission to the floor were still available.
Just after their tour began in April, Nickelback guitarist and lead vocalist Chad Kroeger and guitarist Ryan Peake had a teleconference with reporters to discuss the tour and their new album, Here and Now, and how they deal with the haters.
The show audiences will see in Tacoma is nothing like they’ve seen before, Kroeger said.
“It’s so over the top. ... We’ve got this flying stage that comes down and picks us up and takes us across the arena and starts spinning,” Kroeger said.
“We’re trying to, you know, play our part and look cool while we’re doing this. ... And it’s just absolute insanity. We’ve got this massive screen. It splits apart in six different sections.”
Though the band strives to give concert-goers a lot of bang for their buck, Kroeger says it’s the music that remains the focus. “I’ll turn to Ryan, and Ryan will be, like, ‘At the end of the day, dude, they’re still coming to hear the tunes.’ ”
To that end, Kroeger said the band gives 100 percent at every show.
“You’ve got to make sure that you give it everything, every night, no matter where you’re playing. And it sounds ridiculous but it’s true, meaning that’s what we want to do,” Kroeger said.
New material is going over well with audiences, Kroeger said, and he realized how difficult it is to sing old material.
“We brought back “Never Again” from Silver Side Up. We stepped way back in the set. We took out “Too Bad.” We took out “Saving Me” and we put in ... “This Means War,” that one’s no picnic to sing either. “When We Stand Together,” “Bottoms Up,” and “Lullaby” off the new record, and those ones seemed to go over really well. I think “Lullaby” was actually one of the high points of the night. Everybody was definitely screaming along to that one.”
The way the band writes and produces songs has changed over the years, Peake said.
“I’ve got a studio at my house so we don’t really have to go in quite as prepared as we used to,” he said. “We get to explore a lot more ideas. And there’s a lot more writing that goes on while we’re in there.”
A lot has changed since the band first formed in Alberta. Kroeger said the din of social media he’s exposed to is overwhelming. “Your phone is constantly vibrating with updates from, you know, other people’s tweets and everything else. ... And everything that’s getting released on iTunes ... trying to keep up with all that is very difficult. So thankfully we don’t have to worry about that too much. We’ve got other people to worry about that.”
Kroeger said he mourns the days when instant information about your favorite band wasn’t always available. He recalls when the only news came from a monthly music magazine.
“You’d read what was going on with Guns N’ Roses or you’d read what was going on with Metallica. And it was like, ‘Oh, my god, I cannot wait to see this band play when they come to town. And I cannot wait to get their next record.’ I think a little bit of that is dead now. And it’s kind of a shame.”
Another change for the band is collaborating with others to make music.
“Just getting in the room with anyone from Santana to Daughtry to all the people down in Nashville, to even most recently Avril Lavigne, we’ve been writing together in L.A. You always learn something new because nobody approaches it the same way. Everybody tries to tackle the demon differently. ... “Lullaby” definitely was given birth in Nashville,” Peake said.
Asked if he thought Nickelback would ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Kroeger, in a nod to the criticism that the band is formulaic and derivative, joked, “Well, we may be dead by then, but I think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will probably show up the same time as our first Grammy. And the only Grammy that we would ever win would be Lifetime Achievement Award – thanks for sticking around longer than anyone else.”
And what does the band think of Axl Rose’s recent refusal to be inducted into the Hall? Kroeger said, “It’s an absolute shame when bands have to break up and they can’t see eye to eye on things. But when you look back on someone’s music and you want to celebrate it, (Rose’s refusal is) just silly. I mean I find that incredibly self-centered.”
Nickelback hasn’t been without its own controversy recently. When the NFL announced the band was going to perform at last year’s Thanksgiving Classic game in Detroit, a backlash occurred. A petition was circulated to remove the band from the show. About 50,000 signatures were gathered from people either upset about a Canadian band playing on an American holiday or because they just didn’t like the group.
“The NFL was calling us twice a day going, ‘Oh, my God, we’re so happy. The viewership just went up by 15 million,’ ” Kroeger said and added, “We did see this ... huge rallying of the fans. ... We’re like, ‘Hey, hey, it’s OK. We don’t care. We don’t care.’ ”
“That’s a war you’re never going to win. It’s like having a war on jealousy. You’re never going to win that. ... It makes me a little uncomfortable, but it’s obviously flattering that we’ve got people that are willing to stick their neck out for you. So that’s cool,” Peake said.
The group went ahead with the halftime show and spectators ended up being more upset about the Detroit Lions’ loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Playing with: Bush, Seether and My Darkest Days
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tacoma Dome