Billy Talent + AWOLNATION + Don Broco @ Rock City, Nottingham – 8 November 2012

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Review by Robert Moody

Rock City was the stage on Thursday evening as the third edition of the Rock Sound Riot tour saw a varied lineup performing, headlined by Canadian rockers Billy Talent.

Despite the early start time, the room was already filling up nicely as Don Broco took to the stage to open the show. We have covered the Bedfordshire quartet multiple times in recent months, with this representing their third UK tour in just under 6 months following on from support slots to Futures and Lower Than Atlantis, and there is not a huge amount to add to what we have said before – once again it was a lively performance, full of the sing-alongs and cheesy dance moves which will help get any crowd going, and tonight was no exception. Whilst tonight they were playing a much larger venue, there was still an air of intimacy in the performance, and it is clear that many of those who had arrived early were just as keen to seen Don Broco, if not more so, than the bands to follow. The band have just announced a headline tour for early next year, and on tonight’s evidence it is likely to be very well received.

If there was a certain familiarity about the opening band, the second support act of the evening, California’s AWOLNATION, could not have sounded more different, as they powered through a half hour set covering all sorts of styles, from Indie Rock to Punk and everything in between. The regular use of keyboards gave many of the songs a distinctly European feel, unusual for an American band. Whilst the band played tonight as a five-piece, the project was originally the solo work of vocalist Aaron Bruno, and this is reflected by his tremendous energy shown throughout the performance. Whilst the rest of the band are not ‘full time’ members, the performances were well polished and well executed. The band received a warm response, although the overriding sense was that music so eccentric needs to be listened to several times to get a true appreciation of it!

There was a sudden filling up of the venue over the next 25 minutes, such that Rock City was nearly full by the time Billy Talent took to the stage, to a huge reaction. Launching straight into ‘Viking Death March’, the first single from newest album Dead Silence, there was a slightly muted reaction, but following up with ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’ sent the crowd into a frenzy. There then followed a full set, lasting nearly 90 minutes, mixing songs from all four of their studio albums. It’s fair to say that the older material was more well received in general, although some of the best sounding songs of the night come from the latest album, most notably ‘Running Across The Tracks’ and ‘Man Alive!’. Vocalist Ben Kowalewicz was as lively as ever, and seemed to genuinely enjoy his interactions with the crowd between the songs – there is a genuine sense that the band really enjoy touring the UK, and that it is not just being shouted out for crowd reaction.

Billy Talent have the unusual distinction of being a band who have never had any permanent changes to their lineup, and this shows in the performance as well, with the whole band looking comfortable and confident on stage. The whole set flowed well and every time it felt as though the energy in the crowd was starting to drop, a ‘big hit’ was dropped in to re-ignite the atmosphere. There was some criticisms of the band’s third album, with many suggesting they had lost their edge, but as they closed out with crowd favourite ‘Red Flag’, there was little doubt that Billy Talent are very much back to their best.

Setlist: Lonely Road To Absolution, Viking Death March, Devil In A Midnight Mass, This Suffering, Line & Sinker, Love Was Still Around, Rusted From The Rain, Saint Veronika, Surrender, Runnin’ Across The Tracks, Diamond On A Landmine, Man Alive!, Cure For The Enemy, This Is How It Goes, Try Honesty, Devil On My Shoulder

Encore: Fallen Leaves, Surprise Surprise, Red Flag