I have no choice but to approach Broken Social Scene as a fan. They’re the kind of band that if you get, you find meaning on both outer and inner levels, and they’ll be the first ones to tell you so (stay tuned for our upcoming interview). Splitting the hairs between political and personal seems futile at this point where, as frontman Kevin Drew told us, everything is political. But, as he adds, they’ve always said that.
The struggle for the band now seems to be stamina, as they approach the ten-year anniversary of their landmark You Forgot It In People. Or maybe that’s overstating things. I mean, they’re full of energy where it still counts. For such a huge group – ten or more members on stage last night – they’re locked-in and dynamic: from the watery, abstract intro; into solid …In People opener “Cause = Time;” through to Drew’s Spirit If… solo-smattering “Gang Bang Suicide;” to the self-titled album monster-pop of “7/4 (Shoreline).”
All this effused positivity. As it consistently has. Broken Social Scene by this point know what they do well. Blaring horn codas. Interlocking guitar riffs to set the tone. Drew’s best overland-Bono to tweak the heart. Brendan Canning’s octave-bridging basslines. Drums on the frontside of the beat, propelling the mass forward. Of the live sound, it sounded a little clean, a little quiet.
Ten years on, they still sound most unabashed and charismatic on You Forgot In People standout “KC Accidental.”
Drew introduced outspoken stage-right guitar mainstay Andrew Whiteman with “he’s going to sing you a song we wrote yesterday.” And the band launched into 2005’s “Fire Eye’d Boy.” Which reminds of the spontaneity BSS used to spume on the daily – songs written of-the-moment, every guest on stage apparently unplanned, riffs and melodies off the cuff. But when the band throttled the closer of that excellent track into the windy, clouding night, landing on stadium orchestra hits, even that abandon felt planned as payoff. There’s no blaming careerists in searching out comfort.
But when the horn section strode to shared mics for like the tenth time, on what seemed to be another closing number forced by a stage manager tapping his watch – the still-excellent “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)” – it was the first time the group appeared uncomfortable. Only then, the veneer shattered. “We’ve never been good at ending things,” Drew confessed. I’m not sure they ever will be. After all this time, that’s still a good thing.