It's been half a dozen years years since we last heard from Toronto collective Broken Social Scene, but this year they gathered all the members from accross the globe and from different bands to make the brand new album, Hug of Thunder. And while the tour didn't feature everyone on the album (at this point in their respective careers, that would pretty much be impossible to pull off) it did feature the core members, for two nights at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.
With them they brought Vancouver's own Belle Game, who they had befriended on a writing retreat a few years back. The foursome of Andrea Lo, Katrina Jones, Adam Nanji, and Alex Andrew hit the stage with an instrumental intro, before going into "Up Again" from the new album, Fear/Nothing. They played almost exclusively from that, with the intense song "The River" being the only exception, as Andrea Lo's powerful voice filled the Commodore. No matter how many times I've seen them live (and it's been a few) her voice never fails to leave me in awe. Stand-out off the new album, "Spirit" was another highlight as they wrapped up their all-too-short set with the intense "I Want Nothing". No doubt it won't be long before they're back at the Commodore for a show of their own in the near future.
Not long after that, the the eight(!) members of Broken Social Scene filled the stage, roll call including Andrew Whiteman, Charles Spearin, Sam Goldberg, Ariel Engle, and of course, Justin Peroff, Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew. Just about every member was on double- (or triple-) duty as well, switching off instruments throughout the set, and all sharing vocals.
They started with a couple throwbacks, "KC Accidental" and the upbeat "7/4 Shoreline" before Drew dedicated the set to Gord, and going into "Halfway Home" from the new album.
Other highlights from the new album included "Protest Song", which Engle stepped in for on vocals; in fact, it was just after someone from the crowd shouted for Emily Haines, but Kevin Drew was quick to shift the spotlight to Ariel Engle. And if you've ever seen AroarA you know how much of a vocal powerhouse she is. A little later she did joke that they really did need a few more women on stage, and invited both Andrea and Katrina from Belle Game to sing on a song each; "Stay Happy" and "Hug of Thunder" respectively.
Along with the new material, they went through some old favourites as well, Whiteman taking lead vocals on "Fire Eye'd Boy", the fast version of "Major Label Debut" getting the crowd jumping on the bouncy floor, and Drew getting right up to the crowd for "Texaco Bitches".
The set came to a close with one of my personal favourites, the epic "It's All Gonna Break" as they wove through the bombastic highs and simmering lows of the song, building to the anthemic ending, with each member standing at the front of the stage, raising their guitars to the sky for the triumphant ending.
At that point most of the band took off, but Drew & Canning stayed, Kevin stating this was the encore break, but they didn't want to leave the stage, they wanted to be with the crowd. And as everyone else returned (and played a spontaneous funky groove, at Canning's request) Kevin was true to his word and got into the crowd for a singalong to "Lover's Spit" as he hugged and high fived his way through the dance floor. Eventually he made his way back on stage for one last song, once more inviting both Andrea and Katrina back on stage for another one of my absolute favourites (along with the rest of the sold out venue, by the reaction) "Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl" as they lulled the crowd to a perfect ending to the show.
Photos: Christine McAvoy
Fire Eye'd Boy
Stars & Sons
Hug of Thunder
Major Label Debut (Fast)
It's All Gonna Break
Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl