By Bianca Marques
Standing in the jam-packed Bell Center waiting for Billy Talent to come on stage was like being inside a shaken can of soda.
You could feel the excitement building, the crowd getting antsy and the chants getting louder. Finally, after all that build-up, a part in the curtain, and Ben Kowalewicz (vocals) and Ian D’Sa stroll on stage playing “Lonely Road to Absolution.” The building tension was broken with the screams of excitement from thousands of fans. Timed perfectly with the chorus, the curtain drops and the rest of the band was revealed (Jonathan Gallant on bass and Aaron Solowoniuk on drums).
This year makes 20 years of the band being together. The journey to the Bell Center hasn’t been an easy one. On top of Solowoniuk’s pre-existing MS, he found out he had to have heart surgery midway through recording their latest album (Dead Silence). It made all the difference to the fans to know that in spite of hardships, Billy Talent is still releasing albums and playing shows for their fans.
“Lonely Road to Absolution” merged into “Viking Death March,” the combination of songs had the entire floor jumping, with their fists in the air. The line-up of songs from the Dead Silence album was broken with “Devil in a Midnight Mass,” a song off their second album. As psyched as the crowd was to hear the new songs live for the first time, there aren’t enough words to describe the joy on the fans’ faces when their favourite song started to play. You could tell as the introductory riffs were being played to an older song, spontaneous clusters of fans going mad with excitement.
The song “Line and Sinker” kicked off the start of the crowd surfers. One unfortunate crowd surfer, a small girl with pink hair, fell full force into the mosh pit while she was surfing. (I saw her again after the show: she’s fine.) Crowd surfing may have started early on in the show, but it was only midway through the set, when the band started playing “St. Veronica” did the crowd really start to sing back to the band. Kowalewicz seemed absolutely touched to hear thousands of fans sing right back to him.
Kowalewicz took a break from singing to talk about how proud he (and the rest of Billy Talent) were to be Canadian. He said;
Before it was cool to be Canadian, there was a guy who went across Canada singing about what it meant to be Canadian. He passed away this year; Stompin Tom Connors.
The band dedicated their song “Rusted from the Rain” to the late Stompin Tom. The Canadian pride continued with talk of the NHL playoffs. Between Gallant’s Leaf’s shirt and Kowalewicz sassing the Habs, the guys of Billy Talent were walking on thin ice. They quickly regained the crowd’s affection when Kowalewicz said that regardless if the Habs or the Leafs made it father in the playoffs, we should cheer for whatever team can keep the American teams from winning another cup.
D’Sa seemed completely at home jamming on stage. His guitar was blazed with a red maple leaf. Gallant was anything but the stereotypical wallflower bassist: he was pure rock-star! Between jumping around, rocking out, theatrical high kicks it was amazing that he still made his cues singing the backing vocals. Solowoniuk had the beat pulsing through him throughout the entire set. Watching the drummer was an intense experience with his hair slicked back and the concentration on his face as he pounded away at the skins. Kowalewicz is the quintessential lead singer; he engages the crowd, dances around the stage and sings with all his heart.
Before ending the show, Kowalewicz told the crowd that he was born and raised in Pierrefonds until the age of 11. He said “Every time I come to Montreal, it still feels like home.” He finished with saying:
“Thank you for making our dreams come true and thank you for believing in the power of rock n roll”