Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy Almost Drummed in Nickelback Without Knowing Their Music

The Alberta band invited the drummer to fill in at a festival gig while Daniel Adair was recovering from surgery in 2022

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 9, 2024

Recently returned Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy apparently did not spend any of his 13 years away from the band delving into Nickelback's discography. The musician has drummed in a plethora of bands over the years and almost added the Alberta hard rockers to that list — despite not knowing any of their songs.

Online percussion training platform Drumeo features Portnoy in its most recent instalment of a video series where drummers are challenged to play songs they aren't familiar with. Miraculously, this captured the drummer having an experience we all wish we could relive: hearing "Burn It to the Ground" for the first time.

"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," Portnoy remembered. It was supposed to be a set at a festival that ultimately got cancelled, "so I never played the gig," the percussionist explained, "but I was this close to playing a gig with Nickelback."

Portnoy went on to say that growler-in-chief Chad Kroeger had shared a setlist with him at the time, and while the drummer was certain that his wife and daughter knew the songs, he was somehow completely unfamiliar with them all. (He's clearly never lived in Canada.)

"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," Portnoy admitted as the hit from 2008's Dark Horse began playing.

He continued, "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?'" he wondered before Kroeger's vocals came in and jogged his recognition.

Watch Portnoy take on Nickelback in the Drumeo challenge below. 


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