Ear-splitting rock handily won its ongoing war against pop music at Red Deer’s Centrium, when Billy Talent, Sum 41 and two other powerhouse Canadian bands took the stage for a thunderous quadruple-billed concert.
Devil fingers were raised and gargoyle tongues extended as 1,700 Central Albertans gathered on Tuesday night for an event with one volume setting — loud — and one speed: fast.
In other words, the music was delivered exactly how hard rock/punk fans like it.
“Although our numbers are dwindling, thank you for caring about the power of rock ’n’ roll music!” said Billy Talent singer Ben Kowalewicz, to wild cheers from his young, leather-clad crowd.
While Kowalewicz was presumably referring to the prevailing power of pop music on radio and television, there was no baby-I-love-ya fluff on the live music program on Tuesday night.
What we had was chest-vibrating, ear-piercing, double-R-for-raucous rock.
Billy Talent, the favourite in a lineup that also involved Sum 41, Hollerado and Indian Handcrafts, made a grand entrance in the glare of criss-crossing white search lights.
Celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band, the Billy Talent musicians played several apocalyptic selections from their latest Dead Silence album, including the dire opener, Viking Death March: “Crosses still burn. Axes still fall. And down on your knees you just don’t look so tall,” goes the post-punk tune railing against corporate profits, intolerance and other societal evils.
Aside from shrieking angry lyrics, the wiry, floppy-haired dynamo Kowalewicz bounced up and down, strutted across the stage, and jumped off the amps.
In a similar vein, his teen and 20-something fans, sporting various coloured tresses — including one foot-high blond mohawk — bopped in a mosh pit in front of the stage, with bodies regularly passed over bouncing heads.
Billy Talent delivered searing renditions of River Below, Love was Still Around, Saint Veronika, Stand Up and Run and the relatively quieter and more melodious Surrender. But Kowalewicz dedicated the band’s biggest hit, Rusted from the Rain, to recently deceased Canadian icon Stompin’ Tom Connors, saying, “Some of you may not know this, but we are flag-waving patriots.”
(A clue was the maple leaf emblazoned on bassist Ian D’Sa’s bass guitar.)
The Mississauga, Ont.-based band also performed the angsty Diamond on a Land Mine, and the favourites Devil on My Shoulder, Red Flag, Fallen Leaves and Surprise, Surprise. But before going out in a blaze of glory after a one-and-a-half-hour performance, Kowalewicz took the time to credit Sum 41.
“The first time we went across Canada on tour, a certain band was kind enough to take us with them,” he said, “and that band was Sum 41. We owe them our respect and our success.”
The veteran band from Ajax, Ont., proved it’s still got it on Tuesday — especially if the criteria is playing loudest and fastest.
Listeners could literally feel their lungs vibrating in their chests from the booming bass and percussion.
Red-haired singer Deryck Whibley came on with a string of four-letter words and a demonstration of the Sum 41 salute: You hold up four fingers on one hand and only the middle finger of your other hand.
Starting out with the head banger Hell Song, Sum 41 did a quick 45-minute set, moving through the clamorous and aggressive Motivation, We’re All To Blame, In Too Deep, Walking Disaster, Still Waiting and a thrash version of Queen’s We Will Rock You.
A few audience members were invited on stage to dance, including a shirt-challenged male.
“Play something to make them jump,” Whibley (aka Avril Lavigne’s ex-husband) instructed other band members. And they obliged.
Several females swayed unsteadily on their boyfriends’ shoulders as Sum 41 finished with the popular tune Fat Lip.
The prize for Best New Band to Watch would have to go to Ottawa’s indie-rockers Hollerado for performing a half hour of surprisingly catchy hard-driving material. The songs included I Hate Real, Juliette and So It Goes, about lead singer/guitarist Menno Versteeg’s grandfather, who was in the Dutch Resistance during the Second World War and was imprisoned by the Nazis.
The concert opened with Indian Handcrafts, a drum and guitar duo from Barrie, Ont., who sang Bruce Lee and other tunes at high decibels.
That means Indian Handcrafts wins the Most Noise Produced by Two Guys Award.