Billy Talent w/ Monster Truck & Dirty Nill
Grey Eagle Casino
February 18, 2017
Photos courtesy of Nicki Chang-Powless
We arrived at the Grey Eagle and our first greeting was “are you drinking?” I love this place – they aren’t so much about security (although they do check your bag if you have one and if you buy a bottle of water you cannot keep the cap – what?) but they do a good job of keeping the under-age from the alcohol and that is a good thing (no sarcasm in this last sentiment).
We were graciously escorted to and through will-call; the staff was absolutely wonderful and pleasant. The headliner even took the time near the end of the show to compliment the security team at the stage as they did an amazing job of rescuing crowd surfers without incident or injury. My compliments to the management (again – I swear there is no sarcasm) – the staff at this venue is there to do their jobs and make everyone’s evening a good time within the bounds of reason. I was really impressed.
This all Canadian (and in fact all Ontarian) line-up started the night off with Dirty Nil. A trio out of the Hamilton area that I am completely unfamiliar with. This clean cut looking bunch of twenty-somethings reminded me of another Hamilton band – Teenage Head (yes, I am that old). I couldn’t understand much of anything that was said or sung, they ploughed ahead at break-neck speed cramming 10 songs into about 25 minutes and the sound was loud and relatively horrible. The bottom end was big but all the tones just seemed stale, the drum kit was dull – both toms sounded the same, and someone on stage has to have been in love with feedback because it doesn’t happen that many times by mistake unless the sound crew is incompetent and I just cannot believe that. You don’t go on a national tour with some really serious headliners and take the b-team with you. Having stated all these horrible reasons to not like these guys, I couldn’t do it – they were fun. I bounced and wanted to understand what they were saying – I did here ‘Calgary’ any number of times and with that word the crowd always roared.
Monster Truck took over the stage and played their 10 songs in about twice the time as the opening act and with a great deal more soul. If you listen to CJAY, you’ll be familiar with some of this band’s tunes like “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”, “For the Sun”, and “Sweet Mountain River.” These four Hamilton men poured their southern-metal-blues songs all over the stage and you know you are doing something right when your lighting guy is head banging along with you and keeping the light show together to boot. The sound was amazing, the vocals were sitting right above the music where they belong and the harmonies were spot on. The shirtless guitar player has a bit of an Angus Young feel about him while the rest of the band look like they may have crawled out of a Lynyrd Skynyrd revival. The rapport on stage felt like these guys enjoy what they are going and who they are doing it with. This band has a long career ahead of them if they want it and I certainly hope they do.
As each band came on stage the differences kinda jumped out at me: each band was likely born a decade later than the one that preceded them, the drum kits got progressively bigger, the volume went up significantly so by the headliner I put in the ear plugs (yes, I am a suck) and the light show became more spectacular in an attempt to blind me personally, I’m sure of it.
The headliners came on about 9 and owned the room from their first notes of “Devil in a Midnight Mass” through “Rusted from the Rain,” “Surrender,” “St. Veronica,” “Louder than the DJ,” all the way to the encore: `Fallen Leaves,” “Try Honesty, “ and “Viking Death March.” Did I mention they were ear-bleeding? But Billy Talent were also impeccable – vocals, harmonies, and musicianship were all incredible.
Ben Kowalewicz stopped about halfway into the show to thank every ticket buyer in the room for helping them support 2 Canadian charities through Plus1 – $1 from every ticket sold on this tour goes to support MusiCounts, a Canadian non-profit that provides schools with musical instruments (www.musicounts.ca) and F.U.MS, a foundation that raises money to help send young Canadians affected by MS to college or university (turningangerintohope.com). The latter of these two charities likely hits a little closer to home for this band since it was founded by their drummer. Aaron Solowoniuk is not currently touring with the band while he is fighting MS. Jordan Hastings of Alexisonfire has been working with Billy Talent in the interim.
This show was fun from top to bottom and my standard entourage (the 15 year old) enjoyed it too.