"A crowd that likes the idea of The Big Rock Show but find Foo Fighters a bit shouty." Nickelback do exactly what Nickelback do at Birmingham's Utilita Arena - and their fans wouldn't have it any other way

20 years since they first divided opinion, Nickelback prove they've got the last laugh on the haters as they return for more massive UK shows

Nickelback Birmingham Arena 2024
(Image: © Timothy Hiehle @thiehle)

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Should Nickelback headline Download? Almost 20 years since they first made the leap to arenas in the UK, the Canadian band have proven to be one of the most reliable commercial forces in 21st Century rock. 

This year's documentary Hate To Love explored the contradiction at the heart of the band's rise to success, but their first UK tour in six years proves its business as usual as they're greeted by 16,000 people - and more than a few cowboy hats - in Birmingham. But while the numbers might remain the same, there are subtle hints that the demographics have changed over the years. 

Opener San Quentin caused a stir when a three-second clip had the internet wondering if the band had written a metalcore song (no, really). The fact the band kick their set off with it - after an intro tape of Pantera's Walk, the band having longstanding ties to the Abbott brothers - suggests they've still got fire in the tank and ties to the metal world. 

But it's a fire that's tempered. We're soon in more familiar radio ballad territories for Savin' Me and Far Away, and the muted enthusiasm shown for faster numbers like Animals compared to almighty sing-alongs for the Hits, shows the band know their audience well; a crowd that likes the idea of The Big Rock Show but find Foo Fighters a bit shouty.

But it works in their favour as the crowd grows ever more enthusiastic and vocal as more hits appear. Someday and Figured You Out are belted out with gusto, while a surprise cover of Oasis' Don't Look Back In Anger with assistance from tour supports The Lottery Winners lights the arena up. 

Banter throughout the show borders on cliché rock star-isms but never seems insincere, Chad Kroeger addressing members of the crowd to indulge requests for songs like S.E.X. ("I don't think we've ever played that!" he says, before singing the first couple of verses) and a hug for a fan who's apparently at her 40th show.  

“They’ve been trying to cancel us for 20 years… we’re still here!” He says with a triumphant grin, teeing up a closing run that includes mega-hits Photograph ("you might remember it as 'look at that graph'"), How You Remind Me and Rockstar, the latter seeing them bring a fan on to sing on-stage and live out their own rockstar dream.

Therein lies the beauty of what Nickelback offer in 2024; a romanticised, broad vision of the massive rock show, complete with massive sing-alongs, riffs and a sense of joyous enthusiasm that flies in the face of any hate the band might have endured. So, could Nickelback headline Download? Absolutely; they're certainly big enough. Will they? At this point, you can't help but wonder if they've moved beyond the reach of a scene that never fully embraced them. 

Nickelback live Birmingham Arena 2024

(Image credit: Timothy Hiehle @thiehle)

Nickelback setlist Utilita Arena Birmingham 23/05/2024

San Quentin
Savin' Me
Far Away
Animals
Someday
Worthy To Say
Figured You Out
When We Stand Together
Where Do I Hide
This Afternoon
Don't Look Back In Anger
Photograph
Rockstar
Those Days
How You Remind Me
Gotta Be Somebody
Burn It To The Ground

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.