Nickelback cleans up at Junos

Nickelback is a love ’em or hate ’em sort of band, and on Sunday the Juno Awards loved them.

VANCOUVER — Nickelback is a love ’em or hate ’em sort of band, and on Sunday the Juno Awards loved them.

And after the Alberta rockers collected a leading three prizes, Chad Kroeger made no apologies for fronting a populist band that often gets a rough ride from critics.

“We are a very mainstream band that’s not popular among the press,” Kroeger said backstage.

“Sam Roberts, for example, is … more of a critics’ darling. And obviously, we are a mainstream band but that’s OK, because our fans like that kind of music, and that’s who we’re making music for.”

From start to finish, Nickelback ruled the show.

They kicked off the night with a performance of their single Something In Your Mouth and would climb the stage three more times to collect awards for group of the year, album of the year and the Juno fan choice award.

“Wow, wow, we have been doing this for awhile now — since ’96 — and to win this — group of the year — is just absolutely amazing,” Kroeger said in accepting the first award.

“Thanks to the fans and everybody here in Vancouver, thank you so much.”

Montreal rocker Roberts picked up the Juno for artist of the year — his second prize of the weekend — and put in a strutting performance of Them Kids, while Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall also made it a pair by bringing home the trophy for rap recording of the year.

Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green won songwriter of the year for his side project City and Colour and Toronto synth-pop singer/songwriter Lights was named new artist of the year to round out the awards on Sunday, while Vancouver rockers Loverboy were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

But this was Nickelback’s night.

Dark Horse, which took the trophy for album of the year, was the top-selling record by a Canadian artist or group last year, moving 216,000 copies according to numbers released by Nielsen SoundScan.

And, though the band is not originally from Vancouver, the shrieking crowd at General Motors Place treated them like one of their own.

“This is why we didn’t get a real job,” said guitarist Ryan Peake in accepting the fan choice award. “This is why we still don’t have a real job.”

The band has been the recipient of some incredibly harsh reviews from critics over the years, a fact Kroeger made reference to while accepting for album of the year.

“The press are going to have a field day with this one,” he said.

Backstage, Kroeger said he hoped the media kept it up.

“I’m terrified now because it seems as though you’re almost letting up on us a bit,” he said with a laugh. “Rolling Stone was half decently kind to us, and I’m terrified that this is going to change somehow.

“So if you guys want to go back to beating us up, I’m fine with that. … I have no problems letting this rollercoaster ride exactly as it is.”

It was a night where the hard-rockers were unequivocally crowned by Juno — only Kardinal Offishall sent a light jab their way, while accepting rap recording of the year with a video message.

“Next year, (they should) do 90 per cent hip-hop, and only 10 per cent lifetime achievement awards for Nickelback — you can only give them so many awards,” he said.

Host Russell Peters had promised to target the band after they declined his request to appear in a skit with him, but he left them alone. Afterwards, he said the band paid him a visit and apologized for the misunderstanding, so he decided to lay off.

“They didn’t have to come over and say that, so that was cool,” he said. “And now we’re best friends.

Others weren’t lucky enough to escape his wrath.

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