Concert Review w/ Photos // Billy Talent @ Scotiabank Centre // 06.03.17

Monday is that day of the week that most people dread, and see as the start of the workweek, and the end of their carefree weekend. I concur that for the most part, Mondays could be served well by having some great PR thrown their way. It’s also not a night that is commonly associated with sweaty, ear-splitting nights of rock n’ roll. When it was announced that Billy Talent would bring their Afraid of Heights tour to Halifax, it had a few folks scratching their heads when they looked at the calendar and saw that the Scotiabank Centre was hosting a Monday night show.

…you could tell this was a night that was loaded with youth and testosterone…

Not only was Halifax going to play host to Billy Talent, but also to both The Dirty Nil and Monster Truck. It was a lineup that would have many rock aficionados salivating over this potent triple bill. In looking at the folks packed tightly at the front of the stage, you could tell this was a night that was loaded with youth and testosterone. Yes, there were a few ladies down in the pit also, but it was largely a male-dominated gathering. While it took some time for the floor to fill in and develop into a crowd, by the time the evening’s headliners hit the Scotiabank Centre stage, it was rowdy and robust.

untitled shoot-20170306-69

The lights went down around 8, and the cheers erupted when the unusual entrance music for the Dirty Nil hit. The crowd was both amused and perplexed when Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” started spewing forth from the speakers, and when drummer Kyle Fisher laid into his drum kit, he wasn’t prepared for the cloud of baby powder that engulfed him. From the early hijinks to the late mid-set drum-kit teardown, The Dirty Nil made the most of their mainstage appearance (having played the Seahorse on their most recent visit) with a blistering set of hard rock with serious punk underpinnings. Front man Luke Bentham controlled the stage, and proved that he can wield a mean guitar (all the while snapping off a few bubble-gum bubbles mid-solo) while bearing somewhat of a resemblance to a young Will Friedle (see Boy Meets World). Towards the end of their set, the band even paid homage to local legendary band Thrush Hermit by covering “From the Back of the Film”.

untitled shoot-20170306-292

Then it was time for Hamilton’s Monster Truck to take the stage. Both of the bands bookending this triple bill (The Dirty Nil and Billy Talent) have leaner sounds which border on Punk Rock, while Monster Truck’s brand of greasy blues rock is obviously thicker and more robust. Their sound is tailor-made for the Scotiabank Centre, and the band worked through their catalogue of anthemic area rock with well-known tracks “Sweet Mountain River”, “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”, “Righteous Smoke” and “The Enforcer”. The band looks and sounds like they are straight out of the ’70s rock scene, from lead singer Jon Harvey’s long hair and badge-encrusted denim jacket, to lead guitarist Jeremy Widerman’s topless antics, to that distinct modern-retro sound which had the Haligoons in attendance howling their appreciation. In a set that ran close to an hour, Monster Truck clearly earned itself a new legion of fans.

untitled shoot-20170307-44

As another set of gear was torn down and removed from the stage, it was time to make our way back out front in anticipation of Billy Talent’s impending arrival. When the lights went down, there was a degree of misdirection going on, as the crowd was drawn to the massive unmarked curtain that was poised to drop for a big reveal. While our attention was pulled away, lead Guitarist Ian D’Sa snuck on stage and was then bathed in a spotlight; from there lead singer Ben Kowalewicz made his way to the front of the stage, the curtain dropped, and we were off and running. For the next 90 minutes, Ben, Ian, Jonathan, and Jordan Hastings (of AOF) tore a deep trench through the Billy Talent catalogue, and in a relatively unprecedented fashion, the band dug into the wealth of material from their eponymous debut, including “Try Honesty”, “River Below”, and “Nothing to Lose”. While they were touring their most recent release Afraid of Heights, it wasn’t the focus of the night, as the band incorporated the new songs alongside a slew of fan-favourites.

From Ben’s mastery of the crowd, to Jonathan’s bombastic beating of the drums, to Ian’s scintillating guitar work, it was a great night of rock n’ roll.

I had a chance to see Billy Talent in this very same room back in 2007 when they were touring their sophomore release (II). It wasn’t my favourite show that I’ve attended, and I would imagine that if you asked the band, they would more than likely want that show back. Whether it was a long trek to make it to Halifax, or something else, they sounded flat and were just going through the motions. It was a show that deterred me from attending their next couple of stops in our region, and with the renewed sound of the band on Afraid of Heights, I was pumped to check them out again (and it didn’t hurt that their tour support consisted of The Dirty Nil and Monster Truck). The band has a pep in its step and their sound has definitely grown and filled out in the past 10 years. As great as Monster Truck’s set was, Billy Talent showed exactly why the Scotiabank Centre was packed on a Monday night. From Ben’s mastery of the crowd, to Jonathan’s bombastic beating of the drums, to Ian’s scintillating guitar work, it was a great night of rock n’ roll.

untitled shoot-20170307-100It was great to see another of the more seasoned bands in Canada pay tribute to legendary rock band The Tragically Hip (and Gord Downie specifically) from Ben’s vest with Gord emblazoned over his heart, to the band’s fantastic cover of Nautical Disaster (a song I’ve been lucky enough to see Gord belt out more than once in this room). Now as much as I enjoyed this show, one section over from where I was sitting there was this one older gentleman who was having the night of his life, and didn’t care who saw. Proudly rocking his Billy Talent t-shirt, he was usually the only guy standing up and was either triumphantly singing along, rocking a mean air-guitar, or manning an invisible drum-kit, and at times it was a combination of singing and playing along. He was way into the music, and that’s all anyone could ask, I just wish that the rest of the lower bowl crowd was as invested as this gentleman (whose performance absolutely warmed my soul and brought a smile to my mug).

I could certainly foresee needing a straw for my coffee carafe the next morning; but I was lucky enough to catch a raucous and rejuvenated Billy Talent tear down the Scotiabank Centre.

Sure, it was closing in on Tuesday, and I could certainly foresee needing a straw for my coffee carafe the next morning; but I was lucky enough to catch a raucous and rejuvenated Billy Talent tear down the Scotiabank Centre. Monster Truck may have been my personal headliner for the evening, Billy Talent exceeded all of my expectations and then some, and I can safely say that it won’t be another 10 years before I see these guys perform again. Monday was certainly a perfect night for rock n’ roll.

About the author

Trev

A proud and over-caffeinated husband, father, runner and writer. I've written for the local weekly The Coast for over a decade and have since taken to creating and writing for HAFILAX for even longer. I hope you enjoy the musings of a guy who has loved music for the better part of 4 decades, and has an album of concert tickets to show for it.