Fredericton – Last night, Nickelback stopped in Fredericton to grace us with a performance of their groundbreaking 4’33″x10=Love tour at UNB’s Aitken Centre. This tour is different from any of the band’s previous tours in a very big way: a performance consists of 10 back-to-back renditions of American avant-garde composer John Cage’s legendary piece titled 4’33”. Cage’s ostensibly silent piece requires musicians to not make any sound for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. In other words, Nickelback’s ‘performance’ last night consisted of the band taking the stage and remaining silent for 45 minutes and 30 seconds. Despite the unconventional nature of the band’s ‘new sound,’ they managed to sell all 4,400 general admission tickets priced at $85 each. If nothing else, Nickelback’s current tour is proving that music lovers everywhere are willing to pay good money to see them take the stage and be quiet for three-quarters of an hour.
After the show The Manatee caught up with some fans to glean their reactions, and new diehard Nickelback fan Larry O’Brien seemed to speak for everybody in attendance.
The Manatee: Why on Earth did you decide to go to a Nickelback concert, and do you feel like it was a worthwhile experience?
LO’B: “Ever since ‘This is How You Remind Me’ was released I’ve felt very passionately about Nickelback. I’ve always really wanted to hear them shut the fuck up for just a second, and I definitely felt like the $85 ticket price was a bargain considering I will remember this night for the rest of my life.”
TM: Do you think they’ll stick with this ‘new sound’ they’re experimenting with?
LO’B: “I sure hope so. I mean, they sold every last ticket available to see them at the Aitken Centre, and I know there were hundreds more people trying to find a way in to see the show. And it’s no wonder either, because their new sound caused every last person lucky enough to make it in there to have an experience that could only be described as borderline religious. Every single person was simply bursting with joy. But, even if [Nickelback] goes back to playing their old sound-based stuff, if one of their new songs comes on the radio I can always just turn it off and let the silence evoke feelings of nostalgia for tonight’s performance. ”
TM: What is it you’re going to remember about tonight’s performance?
LO’B: “Well, because I’ve had the pleasure of watching [Nickelback] keep quiet for just over 45 glorious minutes, I’ve had a transcendental experience with the very concept of beauty, as if I had experienced it in its fundamental Platonic form, and nobody can take that away from me.”
O’Brien went on to liken the evening’s performance to the vision quests that some North American Aboriginal peoples go on to ‘seek truth,’ but his quote is omitted due to the fact that he ended it by admitting that, even though he assumed experiencing Nickelback’s performance was a lot like an aboriginal person’s vision quest, he doesn’t really know anything about vision quests. I had scheduled a backstage tête-à-tête with Chad Kroeger for a little while after the show, so while O’Brien was busy stumbling his way through more culturally insensitive comparisons that simply made no sense, I was able to smile nervously and slowly back away undetected.
When I finally found Kroeger backstage we got right down to business.
TM: So, Chad, how did Nickelback decide to become a silent band? And do you think your new sound is coming as a surprise to the public?
CK: “I think everybody knows we’ve always been pushing the envelope and constantly reinventing ourselves, so it was only a matter of time before our commitment to breathing new life into the art form we call ‘music’ would reveal to us the sound we were always meant to have.”
Kroeger then pushed some of his very blond hair aside and elaborated on the origins of the band’s new sound.
CK: “It all happened one night in the green room backstage just before we were about to go on. I said to my bandmates, ‘Hey guys, let’s gradually turn down the volume of our instruments and play increasingly more quietly with every song until the last song is performed in silence.’ They were confused at first, wondering why we’d stand on stage without performing anything, but I explained to them that we would actually be performing This is How You Remind Me, but in silence. Their minds were pretty blown, but no so blown that they couldn’t recognize the stroke of genius they’d just witnessed before their very eyes. ”
TM: So how did the audience react?
CK: “It was killer. As the night went on, the crowd’s cheering at the end of each song got louder and louder. It was clear they were loving it, so we kept turning our instruments and microphones down more and more. After we finished our performance with our silent rendition of This is How You Remind Me the crowd went completely bananas! Right then and there, we knew we had found our sound. We were finally making the music that the entire world had been wanting us to make all along — we just needed to invent it first.”
TM: After you first discovered your new sound, what sort of crazy artistic process did you have to go through to get from randomly performing silent renditions of your own songs to where you are now, bringing the 4’33”x10=Love tour to every continent on the planet?
“Well, it’s pretty simple, really. It turns out we hadn’t invented the silent performance at all — John Cage did, so we got a cease-and-desist letter from the lawyer who handles John Cage’s estate. Obviously we had no idea who John Cage was at the time, but to avoid being sued we worked out a deal where we’re basically licensing the concept of silent performances from Cage’s estate. The format of our show is very purposeful as well in that we are legally obligated to pay homage to John Cage’s 4’33” in a very clear and obvious way. I noticed that if you multiplied 4 minutes and 33 seconds by 10 it came out to be 45 minutes and 30 seconds. It just so happened that we were hoping to put together a 45-minute set to showcase the new sound that everyone was loving so much.”
TM: Wow. I didn’t expect that. The way you just told that story made it seem like you were trying to make something incredibly stupid and completely devoid of artistic integrity sound really insightful.
CK: “Thank you.”
And with that, clearly not sure whether I was insulting him or complimenting him, Kroeger smiled nervously and backed away slowly without saying another word. After about 20 steps backwards, he stopped in a shadowy area of the corridor, clearly believing he could no longer be seen. I stared directly at him with a confused look on my face, wondering what it was he figured I was looking at. The tension remained until I awkwardly told him that I could still see him, at which point he shuffled backwards another few steps until he was able to disappear around a corner.