It’s tough when a band plays an absolutely monumentally unforgettable show as Broken Social Scene did at the Metro in Sydney in 2006 – every time I see them now I compare them back to that special night nearly five years ago. I’m doing my best to not do that right now because, from a completely neutral point of view, last night’s Broken Social Scene gig in Vancouver (their first of a two-night stand) was truly excellent.
From 10:40 until 12:45, Broken Social Scene demonstrated why they are one of my very favourite bands and one of the most entertaining live acts around. You’re just never quite sure what’s going to come next once Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Andrew Whiteman, Charles Spearin, Justin Peroff and the rest of the gang get in full flight.
But it was the unexpected surprises last night that I think I’ll remember most: the perfect execution of their quieter, ballady material. Lover’s Spit, for instance, was remarkable…I’ve never heard it done better. It began with just Kevin alone on stage at the keyboard for a few verses; then Charlie Spearin began adding some fluttering trumpet, while Whiteman played a very restrained harmonica that Canning accentuated with a melodica. It was just beautiful and totally different from how I’ve seen it done in the past. I felt much the same about Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl. Charles Spearin even busted out the banjo! The song was gorgeous and Andrew Whiteman’s wife Ariel provided some great vocal support for Lisa Lobsinger.
The inclusion of the ambient Guilty Cubicles from Feel Good Lost was the first time (I think…maybe in 2003 I caught a song or two) I have ever seen anything played from the Broken debut. Sweetest Kill and All To All, both from this year’s Forgiveness Rock Record were other “quiet” spots in the gig, both providing a new type of sound in the Broken Social Scene set. All To All, one of Lisa’s best vocal outings of the night, was particularly effective live as its finale burst to life on stage.
BSS-regular Lisa wasn’t the only female vocalist last night, however. As previously mentioned, on numerous songs Andrew Whiteman’s wife Ariel joined proceedings. In fact, on Almost Crimes, she took the co-lead vocal with Kevin and absolutely belted out every line. I doubt I was the only one thinking that she would fit in just fine with Lisa as a regular member of the group as Almost Crimes was one of last night’s finest moments.
Over the course of the two-hour gig the band played most of Forgiveness Rock Record (only omissions: Chase Scene, Highway Slipper Jam, Sentimental X’s, Me And My Hand) and it’s easy to see why: the variety of sounds on the record are indicative of what a Broken Social Scene live gig is like. From Whiteman’s lead vocal take on Art House Director through Canning’s Pavement-esque Water In Hell to the powerful explosions and fantastic guitars of World Sick, the new stuff is best heard on stage. Romance To The Grave, another FRR track, was a bit of a surprise in the set…until you remember that lead Sam Prekop of The Sea And Cake was around (they are opening the BSS tour) to provide his vocals.
In fact, The Sea And Cake (I missed 99% of their set) helped out a lot. John McEntire (also of Tortoise fame) not only produced Forgiveness Rock Record but he was also up on stage for most of last night’s gig providing added percussion and Archer Prewitt helped out on guitar for a few songs. The band was rounded out by David and Julia French on horns meaning there were between 6 and 11 people on stage at any one time. While some may long for the days where the band could tour with Metric, Stars, or Feist at will, Broken Social Scene certainly have a huge group of talented friends ready to help keep the juggernaut running.
The power of that juggernaut was perhaps best exemplified in the insanely awesome back-to-back pairing of KC Accidental and Meet Me In The Basement. Meet Me In The Basement was extended to accommodate birthday wishes to Justin Peroff behind the drums but I think the song could have gone for half an hour and no one in the crowd would have minded. Just…YES.
As the final notes of Ibi Dreams Of Pavement faded out and Kevin Drew bid his farewell to Vancouver I immediately began regretting not having tickets to the second show tonight.
Broken Social Scene. Always. Yes.
Fire Eye’d Boy
Forced To Love
All To All
Stars And Sons
Cause = Time
Art House Director
Romance To The Grave
Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl
Ungrateful Little Father
Meet Me In The Basement
Looks Just Like The Sun
Water In Hell
Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)
Photos here. As an added bonus I finally got to meet @gotsound last night. We’ve seemingly been following each other back and forth between Sydney and Vancouver the last few years.