Billy Talent’s world tour roared in to Ottawa’s TD Place Friday night with partners in crime The Dirty Nil and Monster Truck. The frigid temperatures didn’t scare anyone away from attending the Afraid of Heights tour in big numbers.
The Dirty Nil kicked things off with their youthful, bubble blowing, Green Day styled rock and roll. The high energy trio out of Dundas Ontario came out confidently sharing their high paced, guitar driven tunes. Luke Bentham, lead vocals and guitar, energized the crowd with banter, jumps, kicks, splits and fist pumps. The band weaved through their set of songs mostly from their album Higher Power released on Dine Alone Records. Billy Talent’s lead vocalist Ben Kowalewicz even joined the band for a song. The Dirty Nil closed their set with a short high energy number to wrap it all up.
Monster Truck drove in to Ottawa revved up and ready to go. This Hamilton based Rock and Roll band, with an old NHL logo gracing the kick drum came in and were here for a good time. This 4 piece band, borrowing from the traditions of southern rock with some vocal harmony and traditional arrangements. Jon Harvey, the lead singer, kept the audience engaged, while Jeremy Widerman on guitar entertained the crowd with his intensity as he paced the stage. The band did switch gears with a Blues number called For the Sun, a song from their 2013 release Furiosity that they credit as having pushed the band further. Their performance of this song really highlighted each member and their range as a band. The Truck ramped it up from there and by the end of their show really had the crowd going, people were up on their feet and singing. Monster Truck really showed Ottawa a good time and set the stage for Act 3.
Billy Talent showed no fear as they screamed in on their Afraid of Heights tour. Ian D’Sa’s distinctive guitar riff from “Devil in a Midnight Mass” rang out and the sea in front of the band came to life. Lead singer Ben Kowalewicz sporting distinctive red shoes and a vest with Gord inscribed on it, carried that momentum right in to the night. By the 3rd song the mosh pit was alive , and remained active right through the show, keeping security busy. The band jumped through their familiar repertoire, with the audience never missing a beat. We were along for the ride and all in!
The stage and light show were impressive, but the setting took on a high school dance feel at times as Ben got introspective. He spoke of “interesting times” with Trump as President, his pride in being Canadian. Suggesting, with that comes responsibility for listening to each other and that their love and respect, is the same for each of us, regardless of sexual preference, race or religion. Ben spoke of the return of their drummer for a few songs at the show in Toronto, and the closeness of this band was evident, as is the bands respect for their fans. Good to see the distance they’ve put over the years between themselves and their namesake’s Hard Core Logo.
Their drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, battling through MS these past 15 years, is dealing with the return of MS symptoms and is taking some time to address these challenges. In the meantime Alexis on Fire’s drummer Jordan Hastings, a friend of the band, has stepped in for Aaron. The band thanked the audience for their contribution through our ticket purchase to the charities they support that include F.U.M.S. These moments deepened the connection I felt with the band and complemented the visceral intensity of the Billy Talent concert experience.
Around the midpoint of the show the Bass Player Gallant and guitarist D’sa appeared on platforms 30 feet above the stage to each side. The band moved to highlight more of their new material including the song garnering some radio airplay, Louder than the DJ. Billy Talent put on a first rate show, from the songs each of us were craving to hear to the newer material from their latest album Afraid of Heights, as they closed with Red Flag in the end we were left wanting more. And Billy Talent did deliver a satisfying encore as they dove in to crowd favorite Fallen Leaves, then on to Try Honesty, Viking Death March and thanks to Ottawa for the undying support. As the band prepared to leave the stage a member of the band passed the setlist off the stage to a fan, who it turns out was attending his first ever concert. His father’s quote “You guys were amazing, and completely made his night by giving him the Setlist!
Christophe Elie for Tour Bus Entertainment