As patient Nickelback fans waited cross-legged on the floor at Rod Laver Arena, the scene looked like some sort of rock-themed school assembly, complete with an over-abundance of security guards.

Soon, an unspoken signal for group migration pushed the crowd to their feet in time for them to welcome opening act Jackson Firebird.

A proud Mildura rock outfit, Jackson Firebird have supported Nickelback on the Australian leg of the Here And Now World Tour and in the last year have also earned the honour of being the band whose presence rebuffed Lady Gaga from Cherry Bar.

The idea to transplant a self-described ‘Aussie pub band’ into an arena setting was nothing short of inspired.

It was risky to choose a band that might not be able to fill the vast aural spaces of an arena venue but vocalist/guitarist Brendan Harvey and drummer Dale Hudak pulled it off due to their enormous talent for producing pure, unabashed, bluesy rock.

The duo deliver their music with indulgent joy and standout numbers included the slightly swampy ‘Little Missy’, Hudak’s star turn ‘Bottle Bin’, and the unbelievably excellent blues trip ‘Cock Rockin’.

Harvey made sure to acknowledge the wonderful and uncommon opportunity this arena tour had given them and also took the opportunity to encourage punters to go and support them in small, local venues. It would be advice well taken.

After a seemingly endless wait the lights finally dimmed and transformed into a strobing light show, welcoming Nickelback via the energetic and bombastic ‘This Means War’.

It was a great start but all too short. Despite this strong beginning, the momentum waned with ‘Something In Your Mouth’, although the streaming of live audience footage through the enormous onstage screens was received with screams of delight.

This track was followed by the first of many ‘Melbourne!’ shout-outs to the enamoured audience from lead singer Chad Kroeger, along with the first of many alcohol-themed conversation pieces.

Kroeger’s unmistakably husky voice is remarkably true to Nickelback’s recorded sound and no more so than on sentimental crowd-pleaser ‘Photograph’.

The sound was a bit distorted but the ethereal light show and twangy guitars built on the cruising mood of the song and peaked with loud squeals of fan love through the bridge.

It was a warm and effective way to unite the crowd but the atmosphere in the venue was still lacking, as though the show had not reached the heady intensity necessary to warrant such a low-key song so early.

The frontman enjoys ‘shooting the breeze’ with the crowd and it’s fair to say that one beaming mother and son duo in the front row had their night made when Kroeger singled them out for a conversation about all the currently illicit fun in store once the boy hits 18.

It was a heavy-handed yet effective segue into ‘Rockstar’, which finally inspired more widespread spontaneous movement from the masses and some chorus sharing between band and fans.

Finally, the anthemic ‘Someday, Somehow’ lifted the energy of the show to the heights Nickelback is clearly capable of, rocking the crowd with strong guitar riffs and a satisfying depth of heart that was reflected in the dedicated concert-goers vigorously joining in during the chorus.

‘When We Stand Together’ grew the fraternal vibe with leaps and bounds and really got the place moving. This was drummer Daniel Adair’s turn to bask in the spotlight, and bask he did with an impressive yet overly extended drum solo.

It only got better from there with the impossible-to-resist sing-along number ‘How You Remind Me’ and the universally relatable ‘Gotta Be Somebody’, reminding the casual audience member that Nickelback are skilled producers of hook-laden pop-rock.

The band departed the encore darkly with the rallying ‘Burn It To The Ground’, leaving the arena punching the air with energetic devil horns and a sense of exciting energy that was unfortunately missing from most of the show. But what a marvellous high point to end on, leaving the fans already counting down the days until Nickelback’s next visit.

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