In my first quarter-year of writing How Bad Can It Be?, I have occasionally been accused of ”not being the intended audience” for whatever it was that I was hatin’ on that particular week — as if that was somehow a knock on my critical credibility. That attitude confuses me, frankly. Shouldn’t art aim a little higher than simply to please those who are predisposed to be pleased with? ”President of Mishka Fan Club Praises New Mishka Album, Proclaim Mishka Himself Super-Delicious’” — that’s a ”Dog Bites Man” headline. There’s no surprise, no sense of discovery, none of the stuff that makes us want to read cultural commentary to begin with. Nobody — critic or audience — is learning anything.
Still, I’m sensitive to the feedback and concerns of our readers. So when I got my review copy of Nickelback: Uncensored — Live at Sturgis 2006 (Koch Vision/Coming Home Media) — a concert film of the multiplatinum Canadian hard-rock band’s performance at the world-famous motorcycle rally — my primary focus was on the audience. Let me observe the true fans, and divine their expectations, their preferences — and try, thereby, to understand their experience, and what they’re getting out of it; or at least to distract me from the sound of the music, which — notwithstanding that Nickelback themselves seem like sincere, likeable guys — has all the melodic uplift and tonal variation of a garbage can full of angry hornets.
So. Who likes Nickelback?
White people. White people like Nickelback.
And girls who sit on their boyfriends’ shoulders. They like Nickelback. I was hoping that we might get some impromptu chickenfights in between songs, but no such luck.
Behold white people, lurching and flailing out of time with the music.
Who likes Nickelback? Drunk topless girls with heart-shaped pasties like Nickelback.
Drunk topless girls wearing only Mardi Gras beads like Nickelback.
In fact, the camerawork might lead you to believe that all of Nickelback’s fans — at least the ones in attendance at this show — are reasonably hot chicks who will take their tops off, or at least dress like pirate hookers. But this is the Sturgis motorcycle rally we’re talking about, so the odds are that most of the crowd actually looked like this…
…or, y’know, like this…
In other words, schlubby dudes. Who will also take their tops off. And who are grinding up against the hot chicks. That can’t be pleasant for the girls. And seriously: Who thinks it’s a good idea to get naked at a concert? Who, particularly, thinks it’s a fine idea to get naked at a concert in the middle of a biker rally? I saw Gimme Shelter, folks, and we know how that one turned out.
Chad Kroeger salutes the crowd: HAIL SATAN! Crowd salutes back, one-handed; each is holding a beer in his or her free hand.
Cousin Itt from the Addams Family rocks the fuck out; chain-smoking biker grandma is leathery, nonplussed.
That’s a lot of picks for one mic stand. Like, a lot more than you could possibly need. It’s totally a fashion thing by this point.
Oddly, this random audience dude looks more like a genuine rockstar than any of the Nickelback guys. Drummer looks like Jake Gyllenhall with a chinstripe. Guitarist Who Isn’t Chad Kroeger looks like Marky Mark. (Kroeger himself is surprisingly fresh-faced and earnest, when he’s not doing his mustache rockstar scowl.) Bass player looks like he’s wondering who put that fifth string on his perfectly good bass.
The Nickelback repertoire consists of a couple of Fast Ones, a bunch of Mid-tempo Ones, and one genuine Slow One (complete with a trucker-gearshift keychange) so all the bikers can sway and dry-hump their betties. There’s pyro even during the slow one.
This dude can’t believe his luck:
Now Kroeger’s talking to — well, yelling at — the crowd: ”Whaddaya say? You wanna kick a hole in the fuckin’ sky?” Dude, that doesn’t even make sense.
Kroeger appears to be wearing shoes fitted with powerful repelling magnets, requiring him to stand with his feet at least 36 inches apart at all times.
Butterface! (shivers) Moments like this make me grateful that the footage is so dark and blurry on my PC.
Weirdest moment: Kroeger thanks all the topless chicks for being so kind and generous as to flash their boobies at him, before launching into an angry hard-rock song about … domestic violence. Was not expecting that. ”Father’s a name you haven’t earned yet — you’re just a child with a temper,” he sings. (Of course, then he follows up with ”Kicking your ass would be a pleasure,” but his heart is surely in the right place.) And in the final verse the abused wife picks up a gun (see also: Brooks, Garth; Smith, Aero), and we’re back on familiar revenge-fantasy ground. So that’s okay, then; it’s not like Nickelback are pussies, or anything.
OH GOD STAND BACK THIS ONE’S GONNA HULK OUT
Swaying biker earth mama is way into the scene; looks kinda like Jane Siberry, which is screamingly unlikely — although Nickelback are Canadian, so one never knows…
Jesus Christ, is this a screenshot from World of Warcraft?
Overall, everybody seems to be having a good time, so I can’t knock it. I should note, though, that there appears to be a lot of alcohol involved at the show (North Dakota doesn’t have an open-container law, I guess — nor a law against public nudity, it seems) which may be a prerequisite. (For the record, I watched the DVD at about 1:00 PM, which is a little early for me to start boozing; also, I mostly had my speakers turned down.) This can be both good and bad. I mean, look at this poor guy:
I figure he’s maybe two, three minutes away from throwing up, tops. He’s got that look about him. It’s a look I know. I was watching the same show he was, after all, even if I wasn’t drinking; and I own a mirror.