Live Review & Interview: Billy Talent, Rock City (8/11/12)

There was the constant fear of spilling your pint on any number of fans within a centimetre radius, as Billy Talent took over a sold out Rock City on the 8th November.

The internationally famous Canadian four piece powerhouse that is Billy Talent played Nottingham’s own Rock City for the fourth time, and they sure have come a long way. In an interview with Impact, Ben (Kowalewicz) and Jon (Gallant, Bassist) reminisced about when “we saw this place when the whole backstage area was disgusting…a wasteland”. Luckily, Ben and Jon seemed cheery enough living the high life as my interview progressed, while lounging on leather sofas with plasma and fruit platters in sight. For a band that has been going for nineteen years, all having met in high school at a young age, it’s not hard to see why Billy Talent’s distinctive sound has carried them through to their fourth album – an album that they see as a “progressive step forward”. Ben firmly states “we have a formula, we’re definitely a rock’n’roll band, we have things that have become niched to our sound that we elaborate on. It’s definitely the best set of songs we’ve ever written; it’s the best album we’ve ever recorded”, and who’s to challenge that when the whole crowd was chanting anthems such as ‘Viking Death March’ and ‘Lonely Road to Absolution’ from an album that was released a mere two months ago. Thus, the mood for the night was set by a cluster of stalwart Talent fans.

With an understated and professionally calm walk onstage by Ben and Ian to raising lights as the intro of ‘Dead Silence’ floated eerily onto the dance floor, it seems Billy Talent weren’t lying when they promised to wow the audience with just “the old formula of playing a good rock’n’roll show”. As soon as the older Billy Talent classics began to kick in, the floor was literally pulsing with the stomp of hundreds of fans with no shortage of dancing or moshing. But this would be to say that Ben and then band didn’t have any presence in the transitions between songs, which is simply not true. On a night that made everyone hoarse with singing, screaming and laughing – who knew that Ben would charm the crowd with stories of recent Reading festival trivia. He even humbled a buzzing crowd with the news of Aaron’s (Solowoniuck, drums) recovery from major heart surgery, an episode during the production of Dead Silence that Ben and Jon describe as “kind of a low point and a high point. Not just being a band member, but a friend”.

This gut-punching power of Billy Talent spanned the whole night, ranging from hits from their first albums like ‘Fallen Leaves’ and ‘Red Flag’ to sections which gave the crowd a chance to breathe with more jokey and dance-prone tracks like ‘Surprise Surprise’. Yet it seemed that the band themselves never took a breather apart from a quick change from Aaron breaking a drum – a testament to the enthusiasm from the four piece. Their passion is perhaps best summed up in Ben’s idea that they were at energy level “seventeen – ‘Red Flag’ is nine and we’re at seventeen. It’s going to be great. We always have fun when we play here. We’re looking forward to it.” And that was at three in the afternoon.

So overall, Billy Talent are a band that, as frontman Ben holds, “socially conscious.” Yet, equally “We talk about the things that you talk about with your friends at the pub. Sometimes it’ll be politics, sometimes religious, love, sport, stupid things y’know?” Well, after that flawless show: no note off-key, no chord struck with too little power and no drum not smashed. I do know and so do a few hundred other Nottingham rock fans.

Quite simply, Ben’s view of the other shows on their UK tour rung exceedingly true: “people seemed to walk away having a good time”.

Harry Patte-Dobbs

Check back with the Impact website over the next week to read Impact‘s full interview with Billy Talent.


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