First seen on AMNplify here!
Off the back of their fifth studio album, Afraid of Heights, Canadian four piece rock powerhouse Billy Talent returned to Australia in their first headline tour in over four years. Forming in 1993 under a different name, Ben Kowalewicz (vocals), Ian D’Sa (guitar), Jonathan Gallant (bass) and Aaron Solowoniuk (drums) were part of the Toronto indie music scene until 2001, when they reached mainstream success. While Aaron continues his long-standing battle with multiple sclerosis, Jordan Hastings of Alexisonfire filled in for him, with local five piece The Lazys supporting the tour.
After hooking up with Billy Talent at Canadian Music Week 2014 in Toronto, The Lazys arrived on stage with literal buckets of energy, rock god shapes and tunes to make AC/DC head bang along. In actual fact, I expected them to break into an AC/DC song from the outset of every intro. The influence is obvious with power chords, songs soaked in guitar solos and feel-good lyrics. The highlight of their set was lead guitarist Mathew Morris foraying from the stage to the sound desk to rock out amongst the crowd. They did an excellent job of rallying the audience for the headliners.
In a blaze of guitar riffs, screaming, and clashing percussion, Billy Talent took the stage like a foreboding storm. Vocalist Ben was a veritable lightning strike, unable to stand still for more than a few moments. His range included anything from a whisper to a scream with a decidedly theatrical expression colouring every lyric he sang. Ian‘s guitar work was formidable however it needs to be said he provided an intriguing vocal dynamic for Ben to play off, especially prominent in the harmonies of Saint Veronika and later tracks from the set list. Not to be left behind, bassist Jonathan provides gravely backing vocals on every chorus while Jordan keeps everyone in time on the drums.
The setlist had an even focus across all five studio albums, revisiting some oldies like Prisoners of Today and This Is How It Goes, as well as playing Pins and Needles – a track that is rarely played live. Ben dedicated Surprise Surprise to himself for being awesome, and Stand Up and Run was dedicated to Gord Downie.
There was a really cool moment in the show where Ben left the stage, strengthening the focus on Ian, Jonathan and Jordan jamming in an extended version of Try Honesty. The best part was that he actually joined the audience and watched the boys on stage tear it up for a good few minutes. It must be a mark of professionalism and respect, as well as his deep appreciation for music, to act this way. When he returned to the stage he made a point of thanking each of them for their contributions to the band, saying they would miss Jordan when he returns to Australia in January 2017 with Alexisonfire‘s forthcoming tour.
Much of Billy Talent‘s repertoire having a socio-political focus, there wasn’t much time wasted on speechifying. However, during the encore Ben laid down the law: “Times are tough. Every day there’s a new tragedy in the news. Let’s be thankful we’re together, safe and happy […] Because my reality does not include people like Donald f**king Trump!” He also spoke out against the mass murder in Orlando before switching back to lead singer mode and powering through Falling Leaves and Viking Death March to close out. Overall the night was nothing but hard rock and fun for all. It was great to see these guys finally on the road again, performing their new material live. The fan base is as strong as ever and stoked to be a part of Billy Talent‘s journey.
See Britt Andrew’s gallery from the night here!
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Devil In A Midnight Mass
Big Red Gun
This Is How It Goes
Afraid of Heights
Rusted From The Rain
Pins And Needles
Prisoners of Today
Stand Up And Run
Louder Than The DJ
Viking Death March