Review and Photos – Broken Social Scene at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Sep 22 2022
It was the first day of Autumn. The light rain and drifting grey clouds above Vancouver quietly announced the beginning of the season, of stretched-out retrospective melancholy patched with shimmering colours, abundance, joy and togetherness. All of that is symbolically threaded through the music Broken Social Scene has been delivering for over 20 years and loudly celebrated at The Commodore Ballroom, as the band was kicking off the 20th anniversary tour of their album, You Forgot It in People.
The iconic music collective founded by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, both vocalists and multi-instrumentalists, expanded through the years to reach 15 musicians performing on stage at times. Nurturing the indie spirit through nine studio albums, they have been embedding the creativity of each musician into the vibe of their music. Experimenting with sound, they flirt with many genres: entertaining the mellow and ethereal, virtuous rhythms, shredding guitars, cheering horns, and orchestral cinematic pieces.
The stage was filled from end to end with instruments, amps and controllers and a royal arsenal of effects gear plugged in. Seven group members showed up in their own unique style. The only visual appearance they shared was their warm smiles. As soon as they started walking to their designated spots, the excited audience released a very loud welcoming applause and cheers.
The spotlights were on and thin clouds of smoke threaded through the light as Drew greeted the audience with kind words and deep gratitude for the many years of support. The band opened appropriately, not with the low fi-noise that announces the album whose 20 years they were celebrating, but with the first structured track of the album, “KC Accidental.”
Engaging in upbeat, playful instrumentation and simple lyrics, they almost immediately animated the audience, and everyone on and off the stage was jumping for joy. As soon as Ariel Engle joined them on stage to sing “Almost Crimes,” the album’s authenticity was brought to life. Another dimension of playfulness was applied with her ethereal vocals or whispery qualities. Even though the band members were often switching instruments and places depending on their role in the songs, the band made it through all the transitions and made it look like a fun playground.
The space was filled with remarkable euphoric guitar sounds, impeccable drumming that kept everyone synced, and horns that would sometimes send the euphoria to its peak, only to release it in the audience in cheers and applause. There was always movement on the stage: riff-inspired leg kicks, jumps and praising hugs. Engle’s graceful dancing was perfectly synced with the syncopation of the wording in the melodies she was leading.
There were heartfelt moments shared among the members of the band. Andrew Whiteman and Engle sang harmonies in a warm hug, Canning and Drew met face to face, leaning in for a fiery conversation between bass and guitar, or they would all slowly gather to direct the attention to the instrument that had the lead to show respect.
As soon as Drew started playing the first note of their anthem “Lover’s Spit,” there were loud sighs in the audience that died off in silence as if everyone surrendered. The audience let the subtle melancholia of the song wash all over, only to find solace in the reverb of the fluid guitar at the end of the song.
It seemed like there was one collective spirit on stage with Drew acting as the voice of all. He was moved to deliver a heartfelt speech inviting everyone to scream and not be afraid to be vulnerable. “Take everything that you have, all your anger, all your frustration, all your impatience, all the things that came over you: the guilt, the fear, the regret, the loneliness, the friends who aren’t here, the friends who are here before us to death, everything that goes on inside of you, the things you wake up to, the things you go to bed to, let’s let it all go right now. Don’t let anyone stop you. On a count of three, be as loud as you can, let go of all the shit we went through these last two years….”
Everyone screamed. Then everyone cheered. Then everyone sang in unison for the last anthem, “Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl.”
“Park that car
drop that phone
sleep on the floor
dream about me.”
The band left the stage, but as the people were leaving, you could hear, “drop that phone” echoing in the distance, sung by many different voices at different times, until the venue was empty.
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