Near the end of Billy Talent's set, while they were playing their first hit single "Try Honesty," Ben Kowalewicz stopped singing to let the crowd in on a few facts. For one, he mentioned that this summer will be their 20th anniversary of playing in a band together. For another, he mentioned that it will be their 12th anniversary of being known as Billy Talent instead of Pezz. And also he gave a shout out to Sum 41, who took a chance on them before anyone cared and brought them on their first real tour across Canada in 2001 or 2002.
And while I don't mean to correct him, I think he has the dates wrong because I remember attending the very tour he's talking about on May 25, 2003 at the Burton Cummings Theatre right here in Winnipeg. That was the first of countless shows I've ever attended over the years and that makes attending the Dead Silence tour 10 years later all the more meaningful to me. Tons of things have changed over the last decade, not only in my life, but in the lives of the bands as well. But the one thing that hasn't changed is that they're still playing shows and I'm still into the same music I loved when I was in grade 7. I feel like this tour is just concrete proof that it was never just a phase, that there was something really special going on that night in 2003 and I think it's cool everyone (except Brownsound) is here to commemorate it:
Over the years Billy Talent and especially Sum 41 have been incredibly supportive of up-and-coming Canadian bands. This was no different last night when they selected Indian Handcrafts from Barrie, Ontario to open up the show. I have to admit I don't know that much about this band, aside from the fact that they only have two members and they're signed with Sargent House, but I still enjoyed their set. They lack the energy and charisma that brings a lot of arena shows to life, but I have a feeling if I saw them at a place like the Pyramid they'd be a lot more into their element. They never addressed the crowd until the end of the set and even then it was only to introduce themselves and talk about their Jagermeister sponsorship. I really think they could have done a better job bringing some life into their set, but the music was good.
Hollerado were in the same boat because they never played arenas before either, but this quirky pop rock band from Manotick, Ontario proved that they are born naturals and absolutely commanded the crowd. They kicked their set off with "Americanarama" by having a pogo party on stage and in between songs they were just as lively. Instead of spending a lot of time plugging themselves and the record they just released in February, they chose to compliment the crowd (whether it was by mentioning the Winnipeg Jets or Propagandhi) and tell the back story behind one of their tunes. Like Billy Talent opening for Sum 41 in 2003 and Protest the Hero opening for Sum 41 in 2004, they left the crowd wanting more and I can only assume they're going to have a bright future ahead of them.
Up next was Sum 41 themselves and I was quite excited for their set, mostly because the last time they played Winnipeg was in 2005 and the last time I saw them was in 2004. After the departure of Brownsound they stopped touring Canada as much and Deryck Whibley's back problems forced them to cancel shows in 2007 and 2011, but they finally returned last night and that's all that matters I suppose. Deryck also acknowledged this during their set, saying they were "fucking assholes" for taking so long to come back and I can't say I disagree with him, haha.
I was curious to see what they would play and in the end their choices surprised me a little bit. For a band that talked themselves up so much surrounding the release of Screaming Bloody Murder, I found it very interesting that they chose to play none of those songs. I'm not really disappointed because I didn't really like that record, but I still find it amusing, especially when I think back to that free documentary they released awhile back. I'm not really too sure if it's because they don't like those songs after all, they know most of their fans prefer their older material or they wanted to keep up with the 10th anniversary theme, but whatever the reason the older material is what we got. They also busted the first cover I've seen them play, which was a lively punk version of Queen's "We Will Rock You" that was incredibly well done.
As for the actual performance, it was absolutely phenomenal. I was sort of doubting them, but they came back and definitely restored my faith in their band. I'd have no problem slamming them in this review if I thought they actually deserved it, but I can't do that because there's nothing to really complain about. They came out to AC/DC's "TNT" and then Deryck (who still has his spiky hair that's currently dyed red) addressed the crowd saying "Here's Johnny" before launching into "The Hell Song." The band sounded amazing and they looked like they were having fun, which is always a plus. Deryck was an even better front man than I remembered him being, he seemed even more confident this time around, but maybe that's just me. He reminded me a bit of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong at times and that definitely isn't a bad thing. He tried to keep the crowd engaged and at one point he pulled up a few people to watch their set from the side of the stage, which I thought was cool. I still miss Brownsound, but Tom Thacker is amazing guitarist while Stevo and Cone were just as awesome as I've always remembered them. One thing I noticed is that the band chose to improvise some of their songs, which I thought added a nice touch. At the end of "Motivation" they played this metal instrumental and for "In Too Deep" they launched straight into the loud chords instead of doing the softer guitar intro. The only thing that sort of bummed me out was that they didn't launch into "Pain For Pleasure" after "Fat Lip." Deryck going behind the drums and Stevo grabbing the mic was always a highlight back in the day, but their set was a little on the short side and I guess they didn't have the time.
The Hell Song
We're All to Blame
In Too Deep
Over My Head (Better Off Dead)
We Will Rock You
While Sum 41 ignored their newest material, Billy Talent definitely didn't follow suit and they played a lot of tracks from Dead Silence, which was released last September and proves they still have the capability to release good records. Of course they also tossed in their beloved singles and some choice cuts like "This Is How It Goes," but the new record definitely dominated the stage set-up and song choice that night. I think this is my fourth time seeing Billy Talent and they sounded great as always, especially Ian D'Sa who was playing a guitar with a maple leaf on it. The band talked a lot about Canada and hockey in between songs, giving a shout out to the late Stompin' Tom Connors and making a bet that they'd play a free show in Winnipeg if the Jets beat Ben's team (I'm assuming that's the Leafs?) in the playoffs. The stage set-up was similar to how it's always been, but I noticed they had screens on both sides of the stage that captured the guys as they were playing. I thought that was cool, but I was also in the stands so I wasn't exactly that close to the stage. A lot of people were complaining that Deryck looks awfully old in the birthday thread I made for him last week, but based on where I was sitting and without the use of the screen for their set, I can't really comment, haha. I will say that all the guys in Billy Talent were looking pretty good though. Near the end of the set the camera was flipped and it showed everyone in the crowd going crazy instead, which was another nice touch.
As for the crowd, it seemed to be a decent turnout and it wasn't just your typical punk show kids. I sort of feel silly for writing this, but we spotted a guy with an Insane Clown Posse jacket and after watching people in my Critical Studies of Discourse class give a 45 minute presentation on Juggalos I just have to mention it in this review. I think it really hammers home my point that Billy Talent brings out a large, diverse group of people and I think that's a pretty awesome thing in most cases. With their trademark sound and because Americans don't care, I really think it's laid the groundwork for Billy Talent to become a band that we can really call our own as Canadians. This was one of those nights that makes me really happy to live in Canada and be around for some of the amazing music that's being made. I guess I can still be pissed that American bands like Fall Out Boy pretend we don't exist, but we have our own amazing bands right here in our own backyard and that's something I should be more grateful for. Make sure you go to the remaining shows of this tour and show your support for our amazing homegrown talent!
Lonely Road to Absolution
Viking Death March
Devil in a Midnight Mass
Love Was Still Around
Stand Up and Run
Rusted From the Rain
Runnin' Across The Tracks
Diamond on a Landmine
This Is How It Goes
Devil On My Shoulder