It’s been quite awhile since Billy Talent have graced the UK (minus their appearance at Download this summer) but since the release of their new record, ‘Afraid Of Heights’, the Canadian punks have been thrust back into the world of global touring. Also along for the ride for the European/UK dates of the tour are Buckinghamshire’s Young Guns and fellow Canadians Say Yes.
Kicking off proceedings are Say Yes who take to the stage while the academy is hall full of people spread all across the spacious room. They don’t seem phased as they knock out tune after tune of sleazy punk rock and with every song they win over more and more of the audience. Armed with two confident lead singers and a powerhouse drummer in Jordan Hastings, Say Yes are one tight unit. It’s hard not to enjoy the front man’s flawless vocal harmonies and judging by the crowds reaction as they depart from the stage, Say Yes may have won over a few people tonight. (3/5)
Dashing onto the stage next come Young Guns. While the room is still sparsely occupied, Young Guns do their best to whip the crowd into action with opening gambit, ‘Rising Up’. Frontman Gustav Wood tries his hand at getting some audience participation which seems to fall on deaf ears at first. As the band knock out tunes from their new record, ‘Echoes’ it becomes apparent that not many people in the 02 are aware of who Young Guns are. Valiantly, the band reach the climax of their set with a couple of their bonafide bangers (‘I Want Out’ and ‘Bones’) and by this point they finally get some movement going down at the front. (2.5/5)
Very clearly the reason that anyone is here tonight is to see Billy Talent. As the anticipation swells, the room fills and the band take to the stage to massive applause. Kicking off the set with ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’, the singalongs begin immediately. While the crowd are loud, arms are raised and there’s headbanging all over the place, it’s not until the band play new material that things really get going. ‘Big Red Gun’ sees a small pocket of the crowd erupt and by the following song, ‘Afraid Of Heights’ the mosh pit has doubled in size.
The band draw heavily from their second self-titled record, even playing “deep cuts” (as frontman, Ben Kowalewicz call them) such as ‘Pins And Needles’ and ‘The Navy Song’, both of which are welcomed by the room. As a band, Billy Talent are tight as hell and while none of them miss a beat it’s their guitarist (Ian D’Sa) who is the star of the show. His unique riffing and vocal style are a key part of who Billy Talent are and tonight he puts in a glorious performance.
There are a couple of slower moments in the set that see the crowd settle down but at no point are they silent and the bands encore of ‘Try Honesty’, ‘Fallen Leaves’ and ‘Red Flag’ gets everybody moving. You may think that Billy Talent are just another rock band but when you get a set of this length and this quality when they didn’t even play all the hits, it makes you realise just how good they are. (4.5/5)
Words by Shane Sanderson (@shanoscapanos).
Photos by Carrie-Anne Pollard and taken at Rock City, Nottingham – 22nd October 2016.