with supports: Monster Truck & The Dirty Nil
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada – 16.02.17
Billy Talent is a band that has been around for close to 25 years. If you imagine a band that has been together so long, they might seem old, their shows might all seem the same, and their new music might seem to lack the magic it would have had at the beginning of the band’s career. But certainly not Billy Talent.
Fellow Canadians The Dirty Nil and Monster Truck opened up the night at Abbotsford Centre in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland. The garage-rockers and bluesy rock ’n rollers fulfilled but not exceeded their duty of stimulating the audience in wait for the headliner.
Fans were truly here tonight to rock out with their favourite Canadian post-hardcore heroes, as evidently heard from the shrieks and cheers echoed as guitarist Ian D’Sa steps out on stage left from behind the black backdrop. He dawns his iconic stiff, upright ’do and is accompanied by his white Fender Strat starring a proud red maple leaf. The sound of the crowd’s long built-up excitement increases as the riff begins from Billy Talent II album-opener ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’.
Following his entrance come bassist Jon Gallant, stand-in drummer Jordan Hastings of Alexisonfire, and last but certainly not least, singer Ben Kowalewicz. ‘Devil’ proves to be a perfect opening tune as everyone present knows every word and goes nuts jumping and moshing, perhaps reminiscing of the days of high school angst.
All four musicians are dressed in Afraid Of Heights album colour-appropriate red collared shirts. Ian and Ben dawn fashionable vests as well, and while Ben’s comes off not even after the first couple songs, Ian stays classy the whole show through, but not without drenching his entire red shirt with the sweat of shredding those universally loved riffs for us.
Abbotsford feels special tonight as Ben tells us this is the first time they’ve played ‘Time Bomb’ live. We also feel special, but not in an exceptional sort of way, when Ben holds back a grin and tells us, “I was going to tease you about something…” He then breaks down and teases us viciously about the unusual amount of snow Vancouver’s Lower Mainland got this winter. “I heard you got snow! You poor things! How did you ever manage? What did you do?” The singer seethed and snickered at us. “We had to shovel it!” A crowd member painstakingly admitted. “Now you know what the rest of Canada has to go through every. Single. Fucking. Day!” Explains the east coast frontman.
Things take a more sincere note, however, as Ben introduces ‘Leave Them All Behind’ by remarking on Trump’s recent presidency in the States and ensures us that we can all be better than that by simply being good to the people around you. Firmly but heartwarmingly, Ben states of Billy Talent: “We don’t care if you’re Catholic, or atheist, or Muslim. We don’t care if you’re black, or white, or Asian. We love you all the same.”
Ben, Ian, Jon and Jordan never lose a minute of their crowd’s attention as they tear through songs, new and old. Ben explains that original drummer Aaron Solowoniuk is not touring with them as he is still battling MS but assures us that he is well on the road to recovery, to which the crowd’s response is nothing but cheers and applause. While Ben confesses that 25 years as a band have brought them a lot of ups and a lot of downs, it’s completely clear that 25 years have done nothing but better them as a band. As they share the stage with fierce confidence, it’s hard for one’s eyes to leave Ben as he bounds the whole of the stage, theatrically and passionately singing and screaming his band’s songs that carry thoughts and stories that their devoted fans relate to so much.
The connection between Billy Talent and their west coast fans is never lost as they waste no time returning to the stage for their encore, ending the night on the note of ‘Viking Death March’, sincerely thanking the crowd for supporting them all these years, and promising to return soon.