Concerts Concerts Broken Social Scene Shows Strength in Numbers

Broken Social Scene Shows Strength in Numbers

Broken Social Scene at the Sound Academy
Broken Social Scene
Superchunk
Sound Academy in Toronto, ON
December 9, 2010

Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Amanda Fotes

Broken Social Scene touched down at the Sound Academy for the first of a two-show stint in their hometown, and once again reaffirmed that their status as a supergroup is just as much earned by their sheer talent as it is by the soaring numbers tallied within their ranks.

Broken Social Scene

Making the journey to Sound Academy, it wouldn't be a struggle to second-guess attending an event all the way out on Polson Street in mid-December. For the downtowner, the trip can be a hassle; for the out-of-towner, the trip can be a deal-breaker. Yet, the flood of shivering bodies all seemed to be wearing broad smiles as they poured through the doors, with an energy and excitement that was to become a theme of the night.

Once inside, they found testaments to the Toronto music scene's heightened social consciousness; awareness efforts for Sketch, The Daily Bread Food Bank, and the G20 Legal Defence Fund all dwarfed the standard fare of bars and merch tables. These charitable nods are a clear indication of this band's fondness for its city, and this same fondness always shines through whenever Broken Social Scene takes the stage here at home.
With the male contingent first taking the stage amid roaring applause, the expansive two and a half hour set kicked into gear with "World Sick," the first single from their latest album, Forgiveness Rock Record. With the way the boys pounded out this anthem straight from the starting gates, one would have been hard pressed not to get caught up in the passion driving an album described as, "... like all Broken Social Scene albums, a record driven by love."

Steadily, the stage filled in typical BSS fashion with over a dozen artists hailing from the best of Canada's indie music scene (think Stars, Do Make Say Think, The Stills, and the like). Not surprisingly, the audience was especially excited when the internationally successful Leslie Feist found her way onstage to join Amy Millan in performing "7/4 (Shoreline)." Though the band accompanied her in a performance of her own "I Feel It All", Feist was careful not to step on the toes of the band's newest female member, Lisa Lobsinger, and avoided participation in her duet with Millan for the fan favourite, "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl."

After digging an hour and a half into the set, at a time when most other headliners would be winding down and closing in on an encore, lead singer Kevin Drew made the promise, "We're gonna play everything we can for you," and the night rolled on to prove that this was no lie, as fans were treated to twenty-three songs by a band that sees the phrase "radio edit" as a four-letter word. Highlights came in countless forms, like a particularly heartfelt rendition of "Sweetest Kill," the dusting off of old favourite "Superconnected," and a performance of "Almost Crimes" so fiery that it compelled Drew to say exactly what the entire audience was thinking: "I think I had a beautiful anxiety attack."

Although the band's more ambient tracks were absent from the night's line-up, this was no shock, with BSS opting for selections that maintained the spirit they always try to inspire during their shows. Their choices gave the audience no shortage of the grand orchestrations and chaotic layering that has garnered Broken Social Scene so much critical acclaim — a fact that was at its truest with the closing showcase "Meet Me In the Basement" in all of its rolling, instrumental grandeur.

Here in their hometown, Broken Social Scene is often taken for granted and criticized, despite their many successes and contributions to the industry. However, nights like this remind us just how much they deserve their fame, not to mention just how much they care about how they got to the heights they've achieved. When they perform, BSS is a family, and they welcome you in; they love their city and they love their fans, and this love flows freely and unsuppressed the moment they take the stage.

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Superchunk

Setting the tone of what was to become a very memorable evening, North Carolina-born Superchunk was first to the stage, headed by Mac McCaughan (whose vocals also take lead in indie rock group Portastatic). Unusual for an opening act, Superchunk boasts a twenty year biography that qualifies its members as legendary in their own right, despite the long stretch between their most recent release Majesty Shredding and its predecessor that came to fruition nearly a decade earlier. The band has a curious history, both as a musical group and as the cornerstone of an influential music label. In that light, the show offered up a unique experience, to see a crowd brought to life by the founders of the eminent Merge Records, a corporation whose endless discography includes albums from the likes of Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel.

With these label contributions aside, the band delivered an effort that justified the long-standing loyalty of their supporters. Lucky, because, even at such an early hour in the event, the room was teeming with fans elated to see this appearance that many had anticipated for most of their adult lives. And, although life was a little slow coming back into the bodies of the onlookers after their escape from the bitter December weather, it was no struggle for Superchunk to heat up the stage and the crowd; McCaughan's clean vocal performance and the energy he and his band radiated quickly induced pockets of dancing and bouncing that soon spread throughout the audience. Capping off the twelve song set with a flawless rendition of "Everything at Once," the aging group showed that they still have plenty to teach us outside of the boardroom.

Info: Superchunk
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