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It's appropriate that one of the new singles from Nickelback's latest album is called "This Means War."

After all, it's been a bit of a battle for the Canadian rock group since shortly before "Here and Now" came out in November.

Despite worldwide sales of more than 50 million and a rash of hits that includes radio favorites such as "How You Remind Me," "Someday," "Photograph," "Far Away" and "Rockstar," the quartet has always had its share of haters. With "Here and Now," however, they've become more pronounced and outspoken, whether it was the U-M student starting an online petition to bump Nickelback from playing at halftime of the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving Day or Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney's caustic comments in interviews.

Nickelback's members usually ignore the barbs, but this time they've decided to strike back -- in their own manner. To a tweet that "Nickelback makes we want to chop my ears off," the band quipped, "Did you do it yet?" To another who wrote that he has "an aneurysm and violently s*** myself at the same time" when he hears a Nickelback song, the group shot back, "I bet it was the best day you've had in awhile."

It even responded to Carney's comment: "Thanks to the drummer in the Black Keys calling us the Biggest Band in the World in Rolling Stone. Hehe."

"We've just decided we're going to have some fun with it, too," explains Nickelback bassist Mike Kroeger. "We try to aim for the humorous side and have a little playful banter. I would imagine that for somebody who is trying to get us to be upset or our fans to be upset it must be tremendously frustrating to learn we actually don't take it seriously at all and we're just having a good time doing what we do."

For Kroeger and his bandmates -- brother and frontman Chad Kroeger, guitarist Ryan Peake and drummer Daniel Adair -- the best times are usually on the road, where Nickelback headed this week for a trek that's designed to stretch into 2013. It comes several months after "Here and Now's" release, but the delay was by design in order to let fans absorb with the new album's songs.

"We did that on the last record (2008's triple-platinum 'Dark Horse'), too," says Kroeger, 39, who was born in Alberta but now resides in Hawaii with his wife and two children. "We have gone out on our release day and you're playing to half the people you should be, which is a real bummer. You've got to give the world a little time for it to soak in out there. Even our biggest fans sometimes don't know right away, so you've got to give it time to seep in out there and get disseminated to everybody. then you go out."

Nickelback has certainly made use of that time, however. The group began its "Here and Now" campaign by releasing not one but two singles -- "When We Stand Together" for Pop and Adult Contemporary radio formats and "Bottoms Up" for rock outlets. Last month the group followed suit, putting out the melodic "Lullaby" and the hard-hitting "This Means War" simultaneously, with accompanying videos.

"It's really more a function of the kind of landscape that's out there in radio than the audience," Mike Kroeger says. "Our M.O. used to be that we would put one of our songs out to rock radio and it would play there and then it would move on to pop or Top 40 or whatever. It was a great arrangement, but it's not like that anymore.

"There's no cross-pollination between rock and pop anymore. If you're a dude with a guitar, don't even think about getting pop radio (airplay). By the same token, anything sort of melodic or in any way soft-sided, rock radio won't touch it. So you have to be dual. You can't be both of those (formats) with the same song anymore, so we just recognize that and go with it."

Kroeger says the dual single trend is likely to continue, though he adds the group hasn't "gotten into a formal discussion" about what songs will be next. "There's a handful of candidates, but I don't want to speak too soon on that," he says.

That divide, however, doesn't exist when it comes to Nickelback's live shows. "We have this really nice love song called 'Far Away,' " Kroeger says. "It was a big radio song, but it's really soft and we weren't even sure whether we should play it or not. And we did, and we saw more 300-pound, bald, tattooed biker dudes crying in the audience than you can possibly imagine.

"So I think that once people get there, they're ready to hear it all -- and happy to."

By dint of previous Nickelback shows, that crowd is ready to see as well as hear, and Kroeger assures the show will live up to drummer Adair's pre-tour promise that it would be the group's "biggest, baddest, most over-the-top show yet."

"Put it this way -- the artist rendering didn't do it any justice. This thing's huge," Kroeger says with a laugh. "It's massive...big and impactful. Everything is there. We've got a whole bunch of really cool show element ideas with regards to lighting, to video, to pyro...

"There's things people have done yet. I didn't think that kind of territory was still available, but it turns out it is."

But, Kroeger adds, he's confident the special effects won't eclipse either the band or the songs.

"I think the assumption is people come for the music," he says. "They're coming for the songs, and when they get there you give 'em a little bit of the bonus program. You over-deliver -- I think that's a pretty good word to use. If you can say you're doing that, it's good."

Nickelback bassist is a Wing nut

Mike Kroeger may be a native of Alberta and part of a band that's based in Vancouver. But when it comes to hockey, his heart is in Detroit. And with the Stanley Cup playoffs starting this week, he's predicting a successful spring for the Red Wings.

"I'm seeing Detroit going a long way," says Kroeger. "I like the way they finished in the standings; I'm much more nervous about the Wings when they get the President's Trophy" for the league's best overall record. "But I think it's looking pretty good."

Kroeger says the Wings' success allows him to have some fun at his bandmates' and crew members' expense -- especially when Nickelback plays at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. "I always point the rafters, especially to the other guys who might be Vancouver Canucks fans, and it's so much fun to go, 'Geez, they don't have this many of those (championship banners) in Vancouver, do they?' " Kroeger says.

So rest assured Kroeger will be glued to his NHL Center Ice TV package on his tour bus, where he'll "certainly be watching different games than the other people on the tour -- although there's a few people on the tour that have some good sense. They'll be invited to watch with me."

Nickelback, Bush, Seether and My Darkest Days perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 14 at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Tickets are $75, $55 and $39.50. Call 313-471-6606 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com. [for online version only] The groups also perform at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at Van Andel Arena, 130 Fulton West, Grand Rapids. Tickets are $35-$95. Call 616-742-6600 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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