This past week Toronto’s Air Canada Centre played host to several layers of Canadian Rock Royalty.
The Dirty Nil kicked things off, and came out swinging! Having only heard of this band, I didn’t know what to expect. I had missed my media call, and had to rush to the photo pit as their second song “Cinnamon” was ending to try and snap a few photos before the end of the third song. I think I captured a few?
From kicks, jumps, bubble blowing, and hard hitting guitar riffs, the Dundas natives’ escapades had me quite impressed. Lead vocalist Luke Bentham gave every ounce of emotion to that microphone, all the while I thought drummer Kyle Fisher was going to smash through his drum skins!
I ran into Luke backstage and had to give my praises. Very approachable, humble dude! We chatted for a few minutes over a beverage-it was $16 beer night at the Air Canada Centre by the way. Very pleased with the performance. If you haven’t already heard of these guys, do yourself a favor and get on it!
Up next was Hamilton’s much anticipated Monster Truck. Now, I have seen these guys before and boy, do they rock! They came out to a roaring ACC, but thanks to poor lighting, they were heard more than they were seen. The first two songs were basically pitch black. I wonder if the people across the stadium in the 300 level could see anything?
Anyway, They did rock! From topless guitarist Jeremy Widerman prancing around on stage, pointing to the crowd, and getting everybody involved, to lead vocalist Jon Harvey belting out every word with confidence and grit, they put on a stellar performance!
Now the performance everyone was waiting for. Billy Talent! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys numerous times over the years, dating back to 2002 at York University when they took DFA 1979 under their wing.. The four “losers from Mississauga” as lead singer Benjamin Kowalewicz referred them as, hit the stage hard with “Devil in a Midnight Mass”, “This Suffering”, and “Big Red Gun”. Something I always admired about their live shows was how tight they sound together, they truly did not miss a beat. Ben, sporting his “GORD” vest, takes a breather and chats with the crowd- “shall we go old school?” Old school is exactly what they did with “This is How it Goes”, the first track off their debut album. The crowd erupted and all the nostalgic feels were felt. It was as fierce and electrifying as you could’ve hope for.
From that point forward I think I felt a draft from the roof almost being blown off the ACC. They hit us hard with all the classics and hits like “Rusted from the Rain”, “Devil on my Shoulder”, “Pins and Needles”, “Louder than a DJ”, “Nothing to Lose”, “Surrender”, and “River Below”. During an explosive “Louder than a DJ”, Ian and Jonathan were hosited up on a giant platform (kind of like what KISS does), and it was pretty gnarly!
About halfway through their set, Ben made a ode to the current political social situations, saying “we Canadians don’t care if you’re straight, gay, trans, bi, black, white, asian, jewish, catholic, or atheist. We love you all the same!” Shortly after the crowd celebrations, Jeremy Widerman from Monster Truck joins the stage, and they all play tribute to Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip with an emotional cover of “Nautical Disaster” that shook the crowd and had every single human in the building singing along.
The band closed with “Red Flag”- a much anticipated song from some in the crowd, one must wonder no “Try Honesty?” The band leaves the stage and obviously at this point you know that there will be an encore.
In the shadows of a smokey dark red and black lit stage, you see band members returning but it’s hard to tell who at this point. Wait a second, that’s not Billy Talent? The crowd loses their shit, as they jump and scream at the top of their lungs. Then, you hear a muffled intro… “Hey everyone, we are ALEXISONFIRE“. Like a bat out of hell, BOOM! it’s “This Could be Anywhere in the World”. The excitement was unreal. They continued second with “Boiled Frogs” and “Young Cardinals” last, which had George standing erect on the PA stand with both arms up in the air, and his mic to the crowd “fuckin’ sing it Toronto”. Just like that the entire Air Canada Centre was bouncing, moshing, singing, crying, snap chatting, instagramming, and texting all their friends. Preview of Summer shows to come? Yup, the next day they announced four Toronto shows in June at The Danforth Music Hall.
Billy Talent came back out for a three song encore that included much anticipated “Try Honesty”, “Fallen Leaves”, and “Viking Death March”. I think at this point, everyone there was still trying to figure out what they just witnessed in ALEXISONFIRE, so they were a little tame. Billy Talent didn’t care, they rocked as hard as they could down to the final curtain close. Tight, high energy from beginning to end. These boys never disappoint. Good job team.
This night gets an A+