Mike Portnoy Almost Filled-In for Nickelback, Finally Plays Their Music for First Time
While the list of bands that Mike Portnoy has played with has been extensive, unbeknownst to many fans, he almost gigged with Nickelback as well. The story came up as part of Portnoy's Drumeo challenge video, in which drummers are tasked with taking on drums on tracks that they don't know.
So if Portnoy was set to possibly play with Nickelback, how was it that he wasn't familiar with the music, you might ask. As the returning Dream Theater drummer explained, "I got a call from Nickelback in spring of '22, their drummer [Daniel Adair] was I guess having surgery and they asked me to play a show with them, and I said yeah, Nickelback, that'd be a fun gig."
According to Portnoy, it was a festival date that he was set to play but the festival ended up getting canceled. "So I never played the gig, but I was this close to playing a gig with Nickelback." He then revealed that while Chad Kroeger had sent him a setlist and his wife and daughter were sure he would know the material, but he swears he was unfamiliar with the band's catalog at the time of the request.
"Everybody in the world knows these songs, but I don't. I don't listen to the radio so I don't know any Nickelback songs. So I don't know what this song is," admitted Portnoy after Drumeo began sharing the band's hit, "Burn It to the Ground."
"I thought it might have been Mammoth, then I thought it might have been Extreme, there's a song on the new Extreme album that has a bit of that vibe. And then, I was like, 'Is this Godsmack,'" admitted Portnoy at the beginning of the segment, before Chad Kroeger's vocals kicked in and he recognized that it was Nickelback despite not knowing the song.
Sharing what he knew of the band he almost performed with, Portnoy stated, "I know nothing about Nickelback but I know that as much as they are hated, they are just as loved even more and they were down with the Pantera guys too, which is good enough for me." Admittedly, Nickelback are aware of their divisive place in pop culture, going so far as to name their 2023 documentary film, Hate to Love: Nickelback.
After carefully listening to the song and taking notes, he then performed the song as he felt it might be performed, making note of the song's "premature evacuation" abrupt ending.
"That was a good song, man," beamed Portnoy after his initial performance. "I could fine tune that and make a really cool drum part, but I think it's better just the first impression." He added, "I'm sure if I ever did end up touring with them it would be the most fun shows ever in my life. So yeah, I kind of regret that that gig didn't happen, but there's a little taste of what that could have been right here on Drumeo."
But then came the playback of how the song was actually performed with Daniel Adair on drums. Portnoy noted that he might've added an "extra odd bar" at the beginning, and quickly caught on that there was no double bass as he was performing, with Adair filing with a pump and kick drum. "I would've been fired immediately," laughed the drummer. "So if those guys see this video, they're gonna be like, 'Thank god that gig didn't happen. This guy would've fucked up all of our songs.'"
While Portnoy now gets a taste of what might have been, he's returning to familiar ground in his daily life, recently reuniting with Dream Theater in late 2023. The band, with Portnoy back behind the kit, are expected to start working on a new album in early 2024.
Mike Portnoy Plays Nickelback's "Burn It To the Ground" for First Time With Drumeo
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Gallery Credit: Joe DiVita