Nickelback By John Burrows@ Leeds First Direct Arena, November 27 2013

The word is starting to get out there…Britain’s best new arena is THE place to play if you like your rock presented loud and crystal clear. It’s theatre-style lay-out, fantastic views from every vantage point and state-of-the-art facilities mean it’s becoming the natural choice for Nickelback and their fellow arena behemoths. 

Support Skillet could have been overawed by the sheer scale of the place but their confident post-grunge WWE-soundtracking styel piqued the interest of more than a few Nicklebackers, curious to see and hear what all the fuss was about. The heavy sound – complemented by a string section – asked a lot of the venue’s acoustics but it was testimony to the Leeds arena’s PA system that an exquisite mix ensued. Promising to return to West Yorkshire in 2014, Skillet used set closer Rebirthing to sign off in style.

Nickelback were Nickelback. The quality of their set was never in doubt from the moment Pantera’s Walk ushered the mega-selling Canadians onstage.

With a Greatest Hits album to promote this was as predictable – and celebratory – a show as it was possible to imagine. Coming hot on the heels of the band’s Autumn 2012 UK headline tour, the setlist was a variation on last year’s killer show with a few well considered twists.

Revamping the running order, Chad and the boys actually chose to turn things down a notch – favouring a wall of acoustic guitars over an amped up approach. As such last year’s balls-to-the-wall shows weren’t so much repeated as reinvented.

A singalong anthem-fest, Nickelback used all of their experience playing in front of thousands of fans to deliver belting renditions of Photograph, Far Away, Someday and the standout song of the night – a ludicrously moving version of Lullaby. Kroeger ditched his guitar on concentrated on being the ultimate frontman – it worked. And then some.

If the decision to roll out a crass cover of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting bemused the masses – and briefly flattened the atmosphere – then it was a rare wrong turn on a night when the crowd followed Nickelback’s every move with blinkered admiration.

Ryan Peake might have some serious opposition but once again the guitar hero emerged as the true star of the show. Matching Kroeger solo for solo and vocal for vocal, he ultimately eclipsed the main man in so many respects. Talk about the unsung hero.

There may have been no T-shirt cannons this time around (boo) – and the medley of S.E.X., Follow You Home and Fight For All The Wrong Reasons was way too short – but this was yet another hard rock masterclass from the finest Canadian export since maple syrup. No surprise there then.

John Burrows