Post-grunge radio unit shifters fail to impress at the Odyssey Arena

Nickelback are as far from the original ethos of grunge as it’s possible to be without swapping guitars for glockenspiels. 

Fronted by the charmless Chad Kroeger, the Canadians’ entire five-album career has been a cynical exercise in radio-friendly unit shifting, without even a sex scandal or drugs drama to keep things interesting. 

To Kroeger, the band’s inaugural Northern Irish appearance at a sold out Odyssey Arena is just 'another tick on Nickelback’s world map'.

Though consistently popular at home, the group’s European star was on the wane until the release last year of 'Rockstar'. The half-a-million-selling single from 2005’s All The Right Reasons became Nickelback's biggest British hit to date, and remains one of those songs that insist on getting under your skin. 

With an accompanying promo video featuring Kid Rock, Gene Simmons and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, it’s clear that the Vancouver four-piece have friends in high places – and their sights set on classic rock longevity.

Opening in Belfast with 'Animals', an uptempo thumper with a potent chorus, it isn’t long before the acoustic guitars come out and Nickelback’s performance settles into a misery-go-round of maudlin ballads and grunting nu-metal. 

In their favour, Kroeger and lead guitarist Ryan Peake work the crowd tirelessly, handing out beer, firing free t-shirts from a ‘merch cannon’ and presiding over the most excessive pyrotechnic display since the Darkness last strutted into town. But it all fails to disguise an overriding dearth of imagination.

As the show lurches from the vaguely sublime ('If there’s anybody who knows about change it’s you', Kroeger tells the Northern Irish audience when introducing 'If Everyone Cared') to the completely ridiculous (Daniel Adair’s ten-minute drum solo), it isn’t too surprising that the loudest cheers are reserved for the band’s FM anthems.
'Photograph', 'Someday', 'How You Remind Me', 'Rockstar', and a lively, Peake-led rendition of Elton John’s 'Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting' all bring the house down.

Earlier, the American support act Staind – another multi-platinum post-grunge behemoth – had provided the concert’s most blackly amusing moment when, during a singalong, frontman Aaron Lewis urged the Ulster audience to 'blow Dublin away' - an unfortunate choice of words on an altogether uninspiring evening. 

Andrew Johnston