On Friday night the Cape Town City Hall auditorium, built to host operas and orchestras and elegant events, was invaded by a scrawny Canadian screaming “I think I found a flower in a field of weeds!”
In 2010 Billy Talent made a promise to come back and they did just that in a spectacular way. As if to show just how ready Cape Town was for its second tango with Billy Talent, the merchandise stall sold out in 30 minutes flat.
Firstly though Goodnight Wembley opened the show along with Dead Lucky while Gary Cool took the mic as MC. Goodnight Wembley took advantage of the situation by treating the event as an unofficial album launch. They roped in the lead singer of Fokofpolisiecar and Van Coke Kartel, Francois van Coke, to pack an extra punch to ‘She’s a Liar’. The band worked overtime in their role as the warm up act, having the whole audience jump as one by their closing number.
Billy Talent’s music takes full flight when performed live. On the album, ‘This is How it Goes’ sounds angry and intense whereas the live version was somewhat cheeky. Lead singer Ben Kowalewicz seemed more centred this time around. While he still bounced around like a maniac during songs, the hyper rants of three years ago were far from evident, and he was a whole more engaged and engaging.
Earlier this month I wrote about how South Africans don’t like to be told what to do, after Yellowcard got iffy when the crowd didn’t participate at One Night in Cape Town. There is an exception to this rule. During ‘Devil on my Shoulder’ Kowalewicz had the whole auditorium singing “over and over”. This was successful because unlike the split loyalties at One Night in Cape Town, 1) the whole audience was made up of Billy Talent fans, 2) no one was expected to move from their spot and 3) well, it’s not that difficult a phrase to sing… um… over and over. Also Kowalewicz said that if you don’t sing along “you’re an asshole”.
From the balcony I had a perfect view of the stage and the surprisingly rowdy mosh pit that developed. It was a prime spot to see a rather foolish attempt to crowdsurf during ‘Devil in a Midnight Mass’, a song better suited for jumping and screaming “Whisper, whisper, don’t make a sound. Your bed is made and it’s in the ground!” at the stranger in front of you. Also the crowd was so dense that even though it moved with the music it was not that simple to get back down.
The lighting was at the same high standard that RamTouring had set at this year’s Ramfest. During the opening acts the lights were a show in themselves, nearly eclipsing the playing of Goodnight Wembley and Dead Lucky. With Billy Talent the lighting was more carefully in sync with the sound, particularly during ‘Saint Veronica’ when it basically became the fifth member of the band.
August marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of this Canadian band, originally known as Pezz. It also marks the 10 year anniversary of the release of their eponymous first album as Billy Talent. A really special occasion, made even more magical by the breathtaking venue and a crowd that was there with heart and soul.
Billy Talent made a point to thank the people who brought them back to South Africa and I would like to do the same. The Cape Town gig might not have had the cool name like Joburg’s Post aKOPPilyptic Punk Picnic, but nevertheless we had the epic venue. Not all international bands will sell out the stadium but that doesn’t mean there is not a solid fanbase in the Mother City. Nicely done Hilltop Live and Ram Touring for getting this.
Check out Billy Talent’s full setlist here.
* Photos by Warren Talmarkes Photography
* This review was featured on WhatsoninCapeTown.com
* A cool personal take on Billy Talent and Francois van Coke’s right to a skinny jean by Hipstyler Pretty & Ginger.