Billy Talent and Sum 41 Sidewave @ UNSW Roundhouse
The UNSW Roundhouse, while positioned a little out of the way, provides one of the best intimate atmospheres for a rock show. It’s large and round (obviously!) but the sound rocks and the setup is punter-friendly. The locale was the first win, the second win being we were there for Billy Talent and Sum 41. No supports, just a double header of lavish proportions.
Billy Talent took the stage first to a visibly amped crowd that swelled and then condensed as the opening notes of ‘Lonely Road To Absolution’ reverberated off the walls. It was a soft start, almost easing us in o their set that was immediately followed by what felt like dynamite exploding in our faces as ‘Viking Death March’ kicked it into full swing. From the get go, it’s blatantly obvious Billy Talent is a solid, tight unit who are astoundingly good at what they do and as they commanded the audience with such aplomb, we were left willing to do almost anything.
For a band with new release Dead Silence on the shelves, their set was a healthy balance between old and new, making it clear they listened to their fans. It was only after their self-proclaimed “Billy Talent love song” ‘Stand Up And Run’ did we really see the extent of their respect for their fan base. Vocalist Ben Kowalewicz asked, “…Where are Celeste and Matthew?” Celeste and Matthew were brought on stage and, well, Celeste proposed. It wasn’t as cheesy as you may think, and the crowd appreciated being present for this special occasion.
To make up for lost time Billy Talent charged forward, slamming through monstrous favourites ‘Surrender’ and ‘Living in Shadows’ with such force that showed their hunger certainly hasn’t diminished through their twenty-year career. Kowalewicz spoke for the rest of the band in saying “thank you for coming out tonight, we know there are a lot of choices” before leaving the stage to let Jonathan Galant, Aaron Solowoniuk and spirit-fingered Ian D’Sa flex their musical muscles. Upon his return we were promptly annihilated with the triple whammy of ‘Fallen Leaves’, ‘Devil On My Shoulder’ and ‘Red Flag’. This was a set that took no prisoners but made many an ally.
Thirty minutes is just about the perfect time for a crowd to regroup and then prepare again for the relentless punk and metal mash-up that is Sum 41. There was a strange, almost changing of the guards kind of feeling as the band were close to taking the stage. Fans shifted places, older ones moved to the back and people stood fast in the centre, as if almost preparing for an attack. Well it wasn’t so much an attack, as more a losing of everyone’s proverbial shit, with bodies flying everywhere, shoes erupting from the mosh and even a pair of shorts emerging, minus their owner.
The set opened with a bonafide Sum 41 classic ‘The Hell Song’ followed ‘Motivation’ mixed with ‘88’ after which frontman Deryck Whibley asked “You like the metal shit huh? Yeah I noticed that down here.” This led into a blistering version of ‘We’re All To Blame’. Massive props goes to accomplished guitarist Tom Thacker (formerly of Canadian punk band Gob) who has definitely picked up where former guitarist Dave Baksh left off.
It was a set that relied heavily on their fan favourite album, Does This Look Infected?, and with good reason, it being the 10th anniversary of its release and all. While they slammed through songs like ‘My Direction’, ‘Mr Amsterdam’ and ‘Over My Head (Better Off Dead)’ we realised how many Sum 41 songs we actually know, and how many have soundtracked our formative years. It was safe to say that many punters, just like us, were having some kind of existential full circle moment. In saying that, the guy who had the literal full circle moment and got pole axed and flipped upside down in the pit may not have been feeling the same.
Sum 41 are a band with a relentless refusal to grow up, and they are unapologetic in their assault. Whibley did, at points, become a little long winded and nonsensical with his between song banter (At times as well he looked like he was still trying to will himself to become Sid Vicious), but then again we did say they were unapologetic, example shown in the abrupt way they exited the stage after a frantic version of ‘Still Waiting’.
The encore was an interesting choice with Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ being punked up and the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ being revamped. It’s a ballsy move that may not have quite been pulled off because, well, it’s Queen and the Beastie Boys, and the rapping was barely audible in ‘Sabotage’. Maybe that’s why the always awesome ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘Pain For Pleasure’ is placed at the end. It’s Sum 41 doing what they do best and that’s not caring what people think.
It was a Canadian double bill onslaught that left us leaving the venue the way you should be after a rock show, sound blasted, slightly unsettled and ears ringing. And some of us without our shorts.