‘When we played the festival in the summer, didn’t we promise we would be back?!’ bellows frontman Ben Kowalewicz to the heaving Leeds 02 Academy. And let me tell you – they didn’t disappoint.
Dressed all in black and accompanied by a strikingly blue backlight, the boys from Canada had a lot to live up to. Tonight marked their first venue show in Leeds since 2009 and judging by the amount of Billy Talent T-shirts in the crowd – their return was heavily anticipated.
With the crowd suitably roused by Bedford’s Don Bronco and LA mindfuck Awolnation, the headline act calmly took to the stage and gently plucked at Lonely Road To Absolution – before bursting into their new hit single; Viking Death March. As Jon Gallant’s Ernie Ball bass came to life, the opening notes rumbled throughout the venue – sending the Yorkshire crowd into chaos.
Shamefully admitting that this was the first time I’d seen them live, I figured the winter before their 20th anniversary as a band a good a time as ever. A tour labelled the Rock Sound Riot promised much and sent adrenaline levels racing as the band launched into Devil in a Midnight Mass, This Suffering and Line and Sinker barely leaving a chance to draw breath.
From someone who has followed Billy Talent since their second album, the set list was perfect for fans of each style of music. A selection crafted from each of the first three albums, the night included a peppering of songs from the newly released record Dead Silence as Man Alive! And Cure for the Enemy made their UK debuts.
‘I heard an interesting stat the other week,’ begins Ben as both Jon and guitarist Ian D’Sa change their instruments. ‘I heard that at the Olympics, Canada’s total medal haul was topped from people just from Yorkshire.’ A chuckle here, polite laughter there as I’m suddenly swept up in a passionate chant of ‘Yorrrrkkkkkshire’ sweeps the 02. The shaggy haired frontman laps it up before Ian rushes through the opening to This Is How It Goes. The first track from the very first album, I’m delighted it’s included in the night as Ben rounds it off by stating ‘That’s some old school shit right there.’
The air is becoming thin now as line and line of sweaty moshers push towards the stage. Occasional crowd surfers hover above before Billy Talent swiftly jogs off stage for a matter of minutes, before returning to cries for an encore.
A perfect 3 set track; fans favourite Fallen Leaves, hit new single Surprise Surprise and the band’s most popular song Red Flag conclude the night.
For a band that has changed their musical approach regularly as they have progressed, it wasn’t surprising to see a variety of generations around me (including two questionably drunk ’16 year old’ girls just in front.) But as a lone red light shone down onto Ian as he hits the Fallen Leaves solo, his composure is captured by the spray of sweat which follows any swipe up the fret board.
Because the truth is, Billy Talent’s music has not deteriorated – it has evolved as their original angry rock sound approach has found new purpose while still staying true to their punk roots. Don’t agree with me? I know just where to find 1200 West Yorkshiremen that might back me up.