Billy Talent Bluesfest preview: Performances high in post-pandemic show

“The band is playing really well and we’re probably having the most fun we’ve ever had.”

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Fridays at 7:30 PM, RBC Stage, with PUP at 6:00 PM and Weezer at 9:30 PM
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Canadian rockers Billy Talent have been regularly touring Europe for two decades, but this year’s post-pandemic trip was particularly sweet, according to singer Benjamin Kowalewicz.

“It was absolutely amazing,” he said of the May-June hop across the pond, which saw them attend festivals from England to Italy, a precursor to the band’s festival run in Canada this summer.

“I think there’s something about festival season that feels so different than when you’re just playing club shows or headline material. When you’re standing outside and there’s 70,000 people and everyone’s singing and dancing, it’s amazing,” the 47-year-old said in a recent interview, referring to tour chores like laundry and yard work. Taking a break from mid-tasks.

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“And after not being able to do that in the last few years, there is something else. From our side, there has always been a tremendous amount of gratitude and appreciation for being able to do what we do, but now it seems to be taking a lot more emphasis. When you are standing there, you are feeling, ‘This is beautiful.’

It’s a magic that’s captured in the band’s latest release, Live at Festhalle Frankfurt, their first live album since 2007’s 666. Recorded last November at Germany’s historic domed venue, it’s available on streaming services, CD and vinyl, and includes a soon-to-be-released full-length concert film, despite Kowalewicz being skeptical about the whole idea. done.

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“When you do something in a live setting, there is always the variable of live. It’s something I’ve always been a little hesitant about,” he said. “But what I realized very quickly is that everyone who comes to the show has a video recording device in their pocket. It doesn’t matter if it’s your holiday or whatever, it exists anyway so you can shoot it in the highest quality possible and make it into something special.

Germany has long been a major market for the band, which was formed in Mississauga by Kowalewicz with bassist Jonathan Gallant, guitarist-producer and main songwriter Ian D’Sa, and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. For 20 years, they’ve been playing to ever-growing crowds of enthusiastic German fans, with MTV Europe helping to spread the word to surrounding countries.

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“It’s something that (came through hard work) and a lot of people standing up for us and giving us great opportunities,” Kowalewicz says. “It’s really amazing.”

Making a splash in the United States is more of a struggle, something Kowalewicz believes is the plight of every Canadian band. “When we were growing up, there was always the allure of the big hits in America,” he says. “But you’re obsessed with the dream, and so we spent a lot of time in Europe and the UK and Canada.”

That doesn’t mean they’ve given up on America, with their first show there in seven years scheduled for this autumn. Kowalewicz said, “We never equaled the success that we had elsewhere, but we had some amazing times there and met some great bands.” “And if 500 people come and see us play in New York City, I’ll be very happy.”

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Meanwhile, the quartet is preparing summer shows in canadaStarting with Quebec City’s Festival d’Été on July 6, followed by Ottawa’s RBC Bluesfest on July 7 and Toronto’s Budweiser Stage on July 8.

Kowalewicz says, “The band is playing really well and we’re probably having the most fun we’ve ever had.” “We’re excited to go out there and play.”

The singer says the Ottawa and Quebec City dates mark a full-circle moment for Billy Talent, as they’re sharing the stage with Weezer, an American band that was a big influence in the early days of the band. .

Kowalewicz said, “One of the reasons we started a band in the early ’90s was to cover Weezer songs at basement parties.” “So it’s going to be a beautiful, full-circle moment for us. We are really excited.”

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Weezer singer River Cuomo also appears on the song End of Me from Billy Talent’s sixth and latest studio album, Crisis of Faith. Although never intended to be released as a full album, plans changed when the pandemic hit.

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“We just decided that we were going to do something different instead of doing a record out, tour-rinse-repeat,” Kowalewicz explained. “Our intention was to just release the songs as they were done, but in that vein after about three or four songs, the pandemic struck and then we weren’t in the same room for a year and a half, but the rest of the songs were almost finished. they were finished. So we decided to just present it as a record.

Around the same time, Kowalewicz became a father, a factor that further compounded the challenges of the pandemic.

“It was the most difficult time of my life,” he said. “Not being able to work is scary. Our daughter was six months old when this disease struck, so all that my wife and I did was to protect her, take care of her, and love her. Now with little space between then and now, it was a silver lining in the whole thing. I have to stay home with him every day.

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