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NICKELBACK/Black Stone Cherry
May 28th 2009 O2 Arena, London

A triple-first for me, a visit to London's O2 Arena, plus my first live experience of Black Stone Cherry and - possibly, the biggest rock band of the noughties - Nickelback.

The venue is excellent, reminded me very much of US baseball stadiums - high, compact and on this occasion, sold out. What a sight.

The age range in attendance was varied, and everyone was in fine voice and "up for it".

As was Black Stone Cherry frontman Chris Robertson - the guy has an impressive set-of-pipes. Sadly everything else about the bands sound was terrible.

It was low-end heavy, you simply couldn't distinguish between the twin guitars on offer - until the solos, when the overall sound was lost to wah-fuelled twiddling noise.

A shame, as the opening numbers, including the excellent "Blind Man" showed real live potential. Drummer John Fred Young didn't have the rub of the green - which didn't help things as the timing and groove was lost for the majority of their set.

Not good news for a southern, groove based rock band.

I'm not BSC bashing, I think they are an excellent band - with some fine songs, but on the night it just didn't go their way. OTT stage antics from second guitarist Ben Wells & bassist Jon Lawhon screamed "trying too hard".

Do check out their albums, BSC are an awesome band, and their new single "Things My Father Said" is sure to win them more fans.

The biggest bands in history have had their off nights, so I'm disappointed but not disillusioned - I hope to see them again.

Now, talking of big bands.....

Nickelback's stage presence was calm, collected, fun and professional - they looked incredibly comfortable. And why wouldn't they? A sold out UK arena tour and their last 4 albums all multi-million sellers, the (music) world is their oyster!

Opening with "Something In Your Mouth" - the superb balls to the walls hard rocking first track from newest album 'Dark Horse', plenty of pyros and some saucy visuals on offer on their big screen - what an entrance!

Then, keeping with the all out metal-edged theme they're straight into "Because Of You" from 'The Long Road'. Excellent.

Now, Nickelback have had plenty of hits - yes, most of them ballads - but they are a rock band, and although there were one or two gasps from the audience at the sheer heaviness from these opening two tracks, the beat, enthusiasm, performance and overall roar of approval from the majority of the crowd got those sitting on the fence clapping and screaming along in no time.

Drummer Daniel Adair - a very underrated drummer held a masterclass in tub-thumping. He, along with bassist Mike Kroeger were as solid a band engine room as you'll find. Ryan Peake was in fine harmonic voice and solid as a (excuse the pun) rock on guitar, and front/mainman Chad Kroeger was his usual fun, frisky, fine voiced self.

They interacted with the crowd like it was a small club gig. They played hit after hit, interspersed with heavier tracks, plus a cover-version (AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" w/Chris Robertson on lead vocals, Metallica's "Sad But True" and King's Of Leon's "Use Somebody with Ryan Peake on vox) here and there.

An excellent two hour set, from one of the finest rock band's of the last 18 years. Their grunge beginnings are far behind them. Don't let their commercial singles - although excellent - such as "How You Remind Me", "Far Away" and, of course "Rockstar" (amongst many) make you think they don't know how to down-tune, rock hard and put on a hell of a show - or do, because then you are in for a hell of a surprise!

Without doubt one of the best concerts I've ever seen, fun was had by all - band included. If you get the chance do go and see them, you won't be disappointed.

And in a nice change of pace, their new single "Burn It To The Ground" (out soon) had footage shot on the night for the video, and you know what? It ain't a ballad!

Review by Paul Stead

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