It was like Ben Kowalewicz was relishing his hometown arena-sized Billy, er, bully pulpit.
As lead singer for Toronto band Billy Talent, the energy and crazed-eye intensity he possesses was in full force Sunday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. And it was that verve which had the near-capacity, teen-dominated crowd in the group’s hand for most of their 90-minute set.
Marking the final stop on an extensive Canadian tour supporting their latest album Billy Talent III, the “four idiots from Mississauga” (their words, not mine) began the rather evenly paced performance with “Devil In A Midnight Mass”.
“Home sweet f—— home!” Kowalewicz shouted before “This Suffering” and the first screamo-rock highlight in “Line & Sinker” fuelled by guitarist Ian D’Sa.
The band also was determined to emphasize the fact they are indeed Canadian, whether with the “Welcome Home Boys” written on a large Canadian flag, a smaller flag on bassist’s John Gallant’s amp, a maple leaf on D’Sa’s guitar or a Team Canada t-shirt with Crosby and 87 on the back. “Best goal ever!” Kowalewicz said holding up the t-shirt prior to delving into the slower but beefy “Rusted From The Rain”.
A lot of the new songs didn’t seem to have as much oomph as the early material, but the encore-opening “Devil On My Shoulder”, the hard-driving “Diamond On A Landmine” (which saw a bra tossed onstage) and “Turn Your Back” held their own. “Turn Your Back” also featured a guest appearance by Tom Gabel, lead singer of support act Against Me!
After showing a 2007 photo from a show at the same venue, Billy Talent asked fans to light up the arena with lighters, cell phones or anything else they could find for the slower, somewhat tender “Nothing To Lose”. It was the last moment of calm before a bruising storm of “The Ex” and an extended “Try Honesty” wrapped up the main set.
Kowaleciwz had a few more foot-stomping moments onstage for “Fallen Leaves” and “Red Flag”, but by then it was apparent arenas are beginning to suit them.
Prior to Billy Talent, Alexisonfire ran through a 40-minute set mixing the older, shrieking nuggets like “No Transitory” and “Boiled Frogs” with more adventurous recent material from their new album Old Crows/Young Cardinals. About to perform a cover of Rush’s Tom Sawyer across town at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony, the band led by Dallas Green and George Pettit shone on “Young Cardinals” and especially the slower, groovier “The Northern”.
Toronto’s Cancer Bats opened up the four-band gig early but it was punk rock band Against Me! which nearly stole the show. Playing almost seamlessly – and with a style in the vein of Social Distortion and The Gaslight Anthem — songs like “Don’t Lose Touch”, “Stop!”, “Thrash Unreal” and “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” are instant party starters. As well, Against Me!’s “Gabel” brought out Billy Talent’s Gallant and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk for one song, dubbing the new super group Against Talent.
March 29, 2010