Gig Review: Nickelback / The Lottery Winners – Hydro, Glasgow (16th May 2024)

Lottery Winners (c) Bracken Hake

Yeah, some of you are just going to write shitty comments because “Nickelback”. But 14,300 people at this venue, at least, will disagree. I’ll kick off with the only real disappointment if the evening – the queues. Hydro, if you’re going to have merch stalls outside (good idea) then ensure they have plenty of stock. Also, simple things like “sold out” signs on shirts you no longer have would save people waiting for something they’re not going to get.

Indoors, the queues weren’t particularly fast, but the drinks queues were mental. I get that everything has to go in a plastic glass, including the piss that passes for Irn-Bru these days… but get it on tap, as pouring it all out of cans takes ages. It tastes bloody awful now, anyway, so you may as well over-carbonate it and scoosh out a half pint in a few seconds.

Lottery Winners (c) Bracken Hake

Anyway, due to said queues taking ages we missed about half of the openers. I’d never heard of The Lottery Winners other than their name on the promotion for this tour (and, yes, I now know they have a number 1 album. Do you really think I check the charts given the music I usually listen to?). However I think we’ll be hearing a lot from them in the future. I looked at the venues they’ve played recently and they’re all, at most, a couple of hundred in capacity. And tonight they were performing in front of 14,300 – give or take. The venue wasn’t far off full while they were on and this was their first show on that scale. Other than lead singer Thom Rylance constantly going on about how excited he was like a teenage boy getting his first feel of boob, you’d not have known that arena stages weren’t their usual territory.

All four band members were so comfortable up there. OK, so they weren’t running around, but they also weren’t standing stock still and stagestruck. The songs were on point, and smiles were in place. What really sold them to me, though, was their crowd interaction. I don’t think I’ve seen it any better, and I’ve been to a lot of gigs. Thom is bloody brilliant to watch. If he wasn’t singing in a band, he could do stand up. I watched a few videos on their Facebook feed earlier and it seems this is just part of their act. I would pay good money to see this again.

With great tunes and this level of confidence, even when I’m sure they were shitting it, The Lottery Winners are a band with a huge future in the offing. Watching them get a massive portion of the crowd to crouch then jump had my skin tingling. Literally. By that point in the set, I was 100% behind them and wanted to see them do well, and they did. They’ll be headlining shows like this in a decade or there’s no justice.

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Nickelback, on the other hand, have been doing this shit for nigh on three decades with a large portion of that being as arena headliners. Tonight is routine for them, but they manage to make every night a laugh-filled fun-fest. They genuinely seem to love what they’re doing, and there’s as much interaction between the band members as there is with the crowd.

Nickelback (c) Bracken Hake

Amongst a set filled with old and new numbers, all the tropes were there: t-shirt cannon, audience member on stage, crew member on stage, video of audience on huge screen, insane light show, volume cranked up for the heavier songs so the vocals were trampled… you name it.

The lights went down, Pantera’s “Walk” erupted from the speakers (drummer Daniel Adair was wearing one of their shirts throughout the gig), and the band went on before the light show dazzled the crowd and new song “San Quentin” opened the set. Guitar tech Rob Dawson, one of three brothers the band has hired in various positions over the years, covered acoustic duties for “Savin’ Me” and already at only two songs in you got that nice feeling about Nickelback. OK, they’re Canadian so “nice” is the default position, but when you’re bringing the backroom staff on stage during the opening salvo rather than to buoy up a set at the flagging three-quarters stage then you’re doing it right.

Acoustic melodies continued with with soaring “Far Away” before the guy on the sound board pushed everything up to 11 (and flattened the top end of the sound as a result) for “Animals”. This was when I  wished that I’d brought earplugs for my old ears! 1998 was revisited with “Worthy To Say” from The State, which along with “Hangnail” a bit later were probably the low points of the evening. Both popular enough with the rest of the crowd (and “Hangnail” hasn’t been played live since 2019 according to setlist.fm), but both just a little bland for my liking – especially compared to all the other songs on offer tonight. They did give me a chance to enjoy the light show and look at the audience though.

Nickelback (c) Bracken Hake

Ryan got to stretch his vocal cords as well as his fingers on a couple of songs, taking lead on “Worthy to Say” and, erm, “Don’t Look Back In Anger”. Believe it or not, the second time that evening that I’d heard the same song being played live! The solo performer in the restaurant in the SEC sang it as part of his set while I was having dinner. This rendition was a bit… bigger. The entire of The Lottery Winners were invited on stage and the mad frontman Thom shared singing duties with Ryan for the Oasis classic. For many support bands this would have been more incredible as the venue would have been half full for their set, but sadly the gloss was likely taken off this for Leigh’s finest due to them having the place packed to the rafters at 7:30. I’m sure it didn’t bother them…

“Photograph” was beautifully done as an acoustic number until the final chorus when the lights and volume were cranked up, and “Rockstar” was all the more fun for the band inviting the lovely Amy (I think I recall the name correctly) on stage from the audience… who then declared that she couldn’t sing and spent the first verse waving the mic around while videoing herself. In fairness, once one of the band tried to steal her phone, she got over her stage fright and made an effort!

“How You Remind Me” was in full flow when Chad called a sudden halt. A fan in the front row had collapsed and there was a short delay while they were rescued and taken to the medical area. It’s always nice when a band is watching out for things like that, and the got a well-deserved ripple of applause before kicking the song back into gear. Before walking off, we were informed that they’d be back shortly and true to their word we finished with two more classic numbers: “Gotta Be Somebody” and a perfect set-closer “Burn It To The Ground”.

I kind of lost track of time, but I think we got around an hour and three quarters out of the headliners which is pretty damn good. A great first night with no band-related errors, and a good selection of songs. I genuinely don’t get the hate for Nickelback (not that I’m saying they’re perfect, as my review of Get Rollin’ will document) especially when they can put on a show like this and still have you wanting more at the end. I’d certainly catch them again and if you’ve got a ticket for a later date then you’re in for a treat. Just make sure to get their for the support band!

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Photos by Bracken Hake

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