Photos & Review – Annette Geneva
After a 3 year absence Canadian four piece rock band Billy Talent finally graced Australia’s shores with their presence. And boy, I am excited. Touring on the back of their absolutely magnificent new album Afraid of Heights, which essentially switched their song lyrics from toxic relationships, bullying and being a scapegoat to subtle political themes. Basically a Canadian answer to Anti-Flag and Rise-Against. The drummer replacement for their latest album and this tour got even more people excited, considering it’s no other than Jordan Hastings from Alexisonfire. But enough trivia, let me tell you about what went down on the night.
Billy Talent hit the stage at 8:40 and were all wrapped up by 10:20. Being an all ages show, I expected a wide range of emo teenagers and middle-aged rockers reminiscing on their youth. As it turned out though, The Metro Theatre was packed with a real variety: teenagers who were getting picked up by their parents by 10:30, very drunk boyfriends rocking out to all the hits and making their girlfriends super unimpressed, plenty of local band members and oh gosh, a lot of people wearing Billy Talent, Alexisonfire and Rise Against shirts. We were in for a good one.
For all of the old school fans, opening the show with Devil In a Midnight Mass was such a great energy boost and it really got the crowd in the right state of mind to rock out and mosh to the rest of the set! Perfect opener, with such a dominating stage presence, even though it is technically a song about paedophilic priesthood. Followed with The Suffering off their 2006 release – a song about relationships gone sour, which was also a hit 10 years ago. The crowd really started moving and raising their cans of Canadian Clubs in the air – I’m not sure if this was ironic, or just some sort of boost of the coolness factor.
Big Red Gun really appealed to younger fans who tightly occupied first few front rows in front of the barrier, singing along and fist pumping, this new cohesive track kept the energy of classic Billy Talent sound and brand. Followed by How It Goes and new album’s title track Afraid of Heights, which happens to be one of my personal favourite songs off the album – it’s deep, lyrical but still punk, grown-up punk rock. The singer Ben Kowalewicz kept pacing around the stage and waving his hands around – it felt like he was a puppeteer carrying out the crowd’s emotions in his hands. You could feel the heat all those kids on the dance floor were producing even standing way at the back of the venue.
Rusted from the Rain provoked the biggest reaction yet – the crowd was frenzied, started splashing water out of their bottles and before I knew it a mosh pit had formed and the venue’s floor vibrated from all the jumping. Saint Veronika which was nominated for a Juno Award back in 2009 was another fan favourite – the just kept on giving! In fact, it was such a great set list, that I guarantee, if you told me your favourite Billy Talent song – it most likely was on it! Full of emotion Surrender sent me 10 years back to 2006 when the song was released. Absolutely captivating live. Catching a break and addressing the crowd, Kowalewicz stated : “I love Sydney! I’d gladly move here! You guys love Rock’n’Roll, that’s why we keep coming back!”
Old school fans we pleased as River Below started and the band were showing no signs of slowing down, pacing around saturated in sweat and red lights, with the latest albums cover as their backdrop. Prisoners came on and I couldn’t believe how flawless these guys sounded; from D’sa’s guitar and Gallant’s bass to Kowalewicz’s trademark nasal urgency, the lyrics and the vocals perfectly blended in with Hastings’ drum beat over the crowd stomping. Surprise! Surprise! was met with screams and crowd-surfing, it seemed like a never-ending joyride!
The first few notes from guitarist Ian D’sa into Devil on My Shoulder created a mosh pit in the audience and a lot of crowd surfing! At the end of the song bassist Jonathan Gallant and D’sa traded riffs in a short guitar/bass showdown, by the end of which Kowalewicz engaged with the crowd introducing Alexisonfire’s drummer Jordan Hastings and asking the crowd to join in on a sing-a-long: “I’ve got the mic, you will listen to everything I say! Can you handle a sing a long?” I love how great Kowalewicz is with his fans!
Try Honesty kicked off the encore, and its impossibly catchy sound ignited a massive crowd surf/mosh pit throughout The Metro Theatre and the crowd beckoned with whistling and loud stomping. Half way through the song Ben engaged with the audience, yet again, and burst out with a bit of a appreciation speech, “Times are tough right now, ladies and gentlemen….something horrible happens every day on tv, and for us all to be here, safe, healthy, and happy, and together, and singing songs – is the most important and beautiful thing in the world. We appreciate you more than you fucking know.” Quickly swinging back into the chorus and the whole venue reciting the lyrics back to him. Another hit song Fallen Leaves and Viking Death March close out the night and the satisfied fans tore the venue to bits with their last strands of energy!
Billy Talent are not only great musicians, they are also great performers. They can hold the crowd in awe, make them happy, make them do whatever the hell they want! When they leave the stage, the fans are not only satisfied, they are overjoyed and thankful to have witnessed that much talent in one performance.
WHAT THEY SAID
“Its nice to have you all people that are bettering the Earth…because my reality does not include people like Donald Fucking Trump, in my reality no one walks in a fucking club, because they are gay, and fucking shoots them! Enjoy this! Enjoy your time! Be the best version of yourself you can be! Have as much fucking fun as you can. Follow your fucking dreams and don’t let anyone to stand in your way, because if us, fucking idiots, can come up here and do this – you guys, can do ANYTHING!”