It was a little over a week ago that I sat with about 75 other people in The China Cloud, watching Kevin Drew play an intimate acoustic show. And this past weekend it was almost the exact opposite, with Broken Social Scene co-headlining Deer Lake Park alongside Portugal. The Man. Despite not being super familiar with Portugal. The Man, I had heard they're a fun band to see live, plus I was also excited for the band starting off the whole evening.
That opening act being Vancouver's own Youngblood -- who I had coincidentally also seen play a bit of an intimate show, just days after Drew, at Blue Light Studio. They played a short set, but definitely got the crowd excited, as a growing group gathered at the front of the stage to dance. They played a handful of songs, like the title track to their last EP Feel Alright, and ones from their upcoming release, including the dark and sexy "Better When You're Close", Alexis Young's voice sailing through the park.
I said last week that Young has a captivating stage presence and that absolutely translated to the large scale, and I would not be at all surprised to see them playing Deer Lake again in the future.
As an aside, this was the band’s last show as Youngblood… but don’t worry, it’s only because they have recently changed their name to Blonde Diamond (no doubt to make it much easier to find them).
Shortly after, the stage filled with Broken Social Scene, seven members large with a few others rotating on & off throughout the set. They kicked off with the older "Cause = Time", before going into crowd favourite "7/4 (Shoreline)" and the newer "Protest Song", which featured the stellar vocals of Ariel Engle. Engle, Kevin Drew, and Brendan Canning switched off on main vocals during the set, with just about everyone else contributing as well, as members rotated around and switched instruments; drummer Justin Peroff may have been the only one to be in the same spot all night.
Highlights included the soaring "World Sick", "Hug of Thunder" with its simmering intensity, and "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl", where they invited out Katrina & Andrea from Belle Game to help out on vocals, for a song that gave me chills (unrelated to the setting sun). It’s one of my personal favourite songs, and clearly I’m not alone with the amount of people singing along.
They were about to end off with the boisterous "Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)", but when they figured there was time for one more, burst into "KC Accidental" to cap off their set.
I've seen BSS at least half a dozen times now, and they never fail to put on an emotional and impactful show, and Deer Lake Park is a near-perfect setting for them.
Before Portugal. The Man hit the stage, Zach Carothers came out and talked a bit about how they were from Alaska and wanted to respect the first people here, and not content with merely acknowledging they were playing on unceded territory, they brought out some members of the Squamish Nation, for a nice little ceremony before getting started.
From there, the giant screen behind them blinked to life, and up popped the following message:
It was that point which I decided to stick around for the whole thing, because at the very least I knew I was going to like their sense of humour, and stage show. And, true to their words, they were pretty silent for the first hour of the show -- and even then, didn't talk too much, just the usual 'Thanks For Coming' and all that.
They started off their set with a video clip of Bevis and Butthead ripping into their video for "Feel It Still" before launching into some riffs from "For Whom The Bell Tolls" and a bit of "Another Brick In The Wall", then transitioning into their own song, "Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue".
From there, their songs flowed into each other, a lot more raw than I was expecting from mostly knowing the single. Standouts included the anthemic "Live In The Moment", the bombastic "Holy Roller (Hallelujah)", and "Atomic Man", which featured a little bit of "Gimme Shelter" slipped in (a few songs featured bits and pieces of covers throughout the night).
As with the first graphic on screen, the band had a great sense of humour and self-awareness throughout the set, with the screen displaying messages like (Real Bands Don't Need Singers) right before an instrumental song, the courteous notice (We are Portugal. The Man. Just making sure you’re at the right concert) and, near the end of the set, (Don’t Worry, we are playing that song right after this) before the insanely catchy single "Feel It Still". Even during that song, the words (Your mom loves this song) flashed on screen as an entire lawn full of fans sang and danced along.
They didn’t bother with the encore fake-out, saying they were just going to stay and play right up until the curfew, ending off the set with "Sleep Forever" which wrapped up with a medley of Beatles songs, "Live & Let Die" and "Hey Jude", leaving the crowd singing along one last time.
All in all, it was an incredibly fun show from a solid lineup of local, Canadian, and international musicians, and the perfect way to kick off the beginning of the end of summer.