Billy Talent, O2 ABC, Glasgow
14 November 2012
This year’s tour from Rock Sound is headlined by Canadian Emo-Punk quartet Billy Talent, with support from the One Direction of rock, Don Broco (erroneously thanked as “Donny Broken” by BT frontman Ben Kowalewicz) and AWOLNation – whose recorded material does no justice to their savage Jack White-influenced electronic blues-rock and was rapturously received by the young and surprisingly (for a rock/pink gig) clean-cut ABC crowd.
Billy Talent spent just over a minute luring this impatient audience into a false sense of calm with the thoughtful and melodic ‘Lonely Road to Absolution’ before exploding into an earth-shattering opening salvo of Viking Death March, Devil in a Midnight Mass and This Suffering, whose unrelenting, rampaging rhythm and soaring choruses sent the crowd into a kind of ecstatic rage.
Such was the intensity of the opening songs that both band and crowd seemed to be tiring gradually throughout the middle portion of the set with only the occasional outrageous feat of guitar sorcery from Ian D’Sa raising a pulse in an increasingly lifeless collection of ballads which bottomed-out around the time of Smells Like Teen Spirit and the aptly named Anticlimax. This lull cannot be blamed on a lack of effort of musicianship on the part of the band, more an over-familiarity with their own material which gave them the impression of labouring through the motions for songs whose appeal lies far more in the energy with which they are performed than their melodies.
This slight lethargy also exposed the rather limited range of ideas which have spawned Billy Talent’s back catalogue, with altogether too many vocal melodies along the pattern of slow, moaning verse and fast, screechy chorus, and a similar excess of baselines that sound suspiciously like Muse’s ‘Hysteria’.
But Billy Talent came across all the while as consummate professionals and skilled musicians – particularly D’Sa on the guitar, who did the work of three men with a kind of obsessive diligence that had a defibrillating effect on a few ailing numbers – and, like all such experienced and capable operators, they had a little left in the tank going into the last couple of songs, with rousing renditions of Try Honesty and Devil on your Shoulder cajoling the crowd away from its half-hearted efforts to chuck emaciated, 16-year-old crowd surfers at the bouncers and back into a swirling, bouncing mosh pit which lasted all through the spirited encore of singalong favourites Falling Leaves and Red Flag.
Kowalewicz’s closing remarks to the crowd included a mention of the band’s impending twentieth anniversary – perhaps in their old age it may be time for them to consider a shorter, greatest-hits set, otherwise a respected rock band risk coming across as endemic of a genre, perhaps even an industry, which is running out of ideas.