September 13, 2016 Billy Talent Heat Up Sweltering NYC 9-10-16 w/ The Dirty Nil & Badflower
The lovable Canadians known as Billy Talent are back on tour in support of their latest release, 2016’s Afraid of Heights. Debuting at #1 in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, it is their first album since 2012’s Dead Silence, as well as their first without original Drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, due to his multiple sclerosis relapse. Filling in for him behind the kit is Jordan Hastings of fellow Canadian band Alexisonfire, who also recorded on Afraid of Heights. All here at CrypticRock wish Solowoniuk a speedy recovery. The award winning Billy Talent’s North American tour runs through the end of September before hitting Europe in October. Beginning at Riot Fest in Denver, Colorado, six shows in, they rolled into New York City on Saturday, September 10th, for a show fans have waited for quite some time for, and Billy Talent did not disappoint.
An already balmy day in New York City, it was even more hot and sweaty at Gramercy Theatre as fans dripped with perspiration as they prepared to rock with Billy Talent as well as their stellar supporting acts, Badflower and The Dirty Nil, both who have new releases of their own.
Los Angeles Rock act Badflower received some East Coast love from fans when they opened up the show. Touring in support of their first major label EP, Temper, they had a spot-on balance of heaviness, groove, and soulfulness that had the audience headbanging one minute and dancing the next. Consisting of Guitarist Joey Morrow, Bassist Alex Espiritu, and Drummer Anthony Sonetti, Frontman Josh Katz went from a soft, nearly falsetto voice to a Punk Rock shrill with ease.
Already shaping up to be an exciting night, The Dirty Nil took the stage as direct support to Billy Talent. The trio from Ontario delivered fast riffs, galloping drums, short and speedy tunes as well as some serious Rock-n-Roll. Singer, Guitarist, and expert bubble gum chewer Luke Bentham howled and wailed lyrics, “You can be pissed off if you want to!” Charismatic and animated, he played so hard that he lost a knob on his guitar. “If anyone out there finds a knob, give it to me after the show,” Bentham told the crowd. Bassist and Vocalist David Nardi and Drummer Kyle Fisher provided the muscle in the band as they cranked out songs from their debut full-length album, Higher Power, including “No Weakness” and “Friends in the Sky.” Speaking of “Friends in the Sky,” be on the look out for the band’s forthcoming video for the track.
Although fifteen minutes late, fans patiently waited, and once a Beastie Boys tune was cranked, the energy heightened and the Billy Talent took the stage. Wasting no time, the Canadian rockers kicked off chaos with “Devil in a Midnight Mass,” where everyone including the band was sweat-soaked just after the first song. They went into another favorite off of the 2006 Billy Talent II record, “This Suffering,” and had the vigorous crowd shout the lyrics, “Rescue me! Rescue me!” Die-hard Billy Talent fans unleashed to “This Is How It Goes” from the band’s very first album.
“I have to apologize that it’s taken us so long to come back to New York City,” said Frontman Ben Kowalewicz to the sold out crowd. His energy and humor is contagious onstage, even when he is insulting hometown teams. “On a side note, can you tell your shitty Yankees to leave my [Blue] Jays alone. F—k the Mets too! F—k all of them!” While baseball fans erupted in boos, he managed to get New Yorkers back on his side by saying, “Especially f—k the Red Sox!” If the frontman was not chatting with the crowd, playing air guitar, or jumping around onstage, then he was delivering impeccable vocals to many of the Billy Talent anthems we know and love.
One of the most striking things about Billy Talent is the fact that it has been the same four friends playing in the same band since 1993. Guitarist Ian D’Sa and Bassist Jonathan Gallant provided the addictive riffs that get stuck in everyone’s head and the deep basslines that are so prominent in much of Billy Talent’s music. That in mind, during the set, the band delivered the notable older favorites “Pins and Needles,” “Surrender,” and “River Below,” which definitely increased the perspiration of everyone overall.
After the madness of that trifecta of songs, Kowalewicz noticed a 10-year-old boy in the front row named Jake and put him off to the side of the stage for safety reasons, with some water. This happened to be Jake’s very first concert, and with that, the very funny frontman decided to tell him a joke he can tell at school (but he really can’t).
Kowalewicz continues to proceed with the actual joke, “A bear and a rabbit are taking a shit in the woods and the bear asks, ‘Do you mind getting shit in your fur?’ The rabbit replies, ‘No,’ and then the bear wipes his ass with the rabbit.” Is this appropriate for Jake to tell at school, probably not, but in a room full of Billy Talent fans, it was pretty damn funny. The band went on to dedicate the performance of the title track of their new album, “Afraid of Heights,” to the little Punk Rocker Jake. Other new tunes in the set included “Big Red Gun,” where the crowd-surfers really came alive, as well as “Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats,” “The Crutch,” and “Louder Than the DJ.”
Billy Talent paid tribute to the late, great MCA by dedicating their performance of “Stand Up and Run” to him. Things cranked back up as another one-two punch was the performance of “Devil On My Shoulder” and fans could not catch their breath as “Red Flag” kicked in right after. Kowalewicz sang, “Well I’ve never seen us act like this / Our only hope is the minds of kids / And they’ll show us a thing or two,” to 10-year-old Jake.
It might have been a sweat-filled show, but that did not stop fans from chanting for an encore, and they got it. During their hit “Try Honesty,” Kowalewicz had his most heart-filled moment with fans as he addressed the fifteen year anniversary of 9/11. “Love will always conquer all. Believe in love and tolerance and acceptance. Learn from people different than you rather than be scared of people different from you.” After talking about political figures, the native Canadian amusingly stated, “Depends on how it all works out, you can all come crash at my house.”
The memorable night ended with sore limbs and hoarse voices shouting every word to “Fallen Leaves” and “Viking Death March.” “Let’s make a deal from this day on, we will come back more often and you come back more often,” said Kowalewicz. There is no doubt that Billy Talent fans will indeed show up wherever and whenever they roll into town again.Photos by: Aintellin Photography