Gig review: Billy Talent, Leeds O2 Academy

Canadian punk-rock royalty Billy Talent had a packed Leeds O2 Academy bouncing as they returned with awesome energy and gave fans a welcome live airing of hits from their fifth studio album Afraid of Heights.

Friday, 21st October 2016, 2:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 3:17 pm
Billy Talent rocked the Leeds O2 Academy on Thursday night as they returned to the UK on a European tour of their fifth studio album, 'Afraid of Heights'. Picture: Dustin Rabin

Last seen on a full UK tour in autumn 2012 on the back of fourth record Dead Silence, the five-piece appeared in Leeds three months after the release of Afraid of Heights and with a week and a half of their latest European tour under their belts.

After supporting acts Say Yes and Young Guns had warmed up the crowd, Billy Talent emerged to a raucous reception.

Among their number was Say Yes drummer and fellow Canadian, Jordan Hastings, who recorded drums for Afraid Of Heights. He is standing in for the band’s original drummer Aaron Solowoniuk who has been sitting out the action in the studio and on tour as he continues his longstanding battle with multiple sclerosis.

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Solowoniuk is some talent, but his deputy is proving more than capable and there was great synergy in a polished performance that saw the band feast on a setlist that romped through some of the standout tunes from their new album, as well as dipping into what is now an extensive back catalogue.

Dressed in red short-sleeve shirts and skinny black trousers, frontman Benjamin Kowalewicz - blonde locks falling over his eyes - led the assault as the band got off to an explosive start with Devil in a Midnight Mass from album two.

It didn’t take long for a mosh pit to assemble and the band should be pleased with the fervorous reaction to new hits Big Red Gun, The Crutch, Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats, Louder Than the DJ and album title track, Afraid of Heights.

Billy Talent’s material has always been loaded with social commentary, and Big Red Gun tells of the precarious state of current international affairs, while Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats is a melodic outburst of fury at our blindsighted attitude to the future.

Each of their albums has a sugar sweet track packed with adrenaline and a catchy chorus that is easy on the ear, and Louder Than the DJ is exactly that on Afraid of Heights. Kowalewicz belts out, “The lights go down, the crowd explodes!” during this number and it befitted the euphoria being played among the audience.

On Kowalewicz screamed and sang, standing on a speaker at one point to share his disgust at Donald Trump, as the band launched into classic material: This Suffering, Rusted from the Rain, Leave Them All Behind, Pins and Needles, Surrender, River Below, The Navy Song

Surprise Surprise and Viking Death March.

Some of their most barnstorming numbers were rolled out for the encore and if the crowd had not hit fever pitch before now then, Try Honesty, Fallen Leaves and, via a long lead in, Red Flag ensured no-one stopped for breath in a frantic blast to the finish.

Billy Talent are back.