After a six year hiatus during which they only played the occasional show in their native Canada, self-styled musical collective Broken Social Scene is back. The group released their first album in seven years, Hug of Thunder, in July, and began an extensive North American tour in the middle of this month. Last week that brought them to DC to play two nights at the 9:30 Club. We caught the second show on Wednesday evening.
Part of the “collective” arrangement of the band is that people are coming and going all of the time depending on their availability, and because of this they’ve been known to have as many as nineteen members at a given time. For these shows the band ended up at a somewhat more modest ten people on stage. The show on Wednesday started with a smaller lineup playing “Cause = Time” from 2002’s You Forgot It in People before the band was joined by the other members, including singers Ariel Engle (who joined last year and was making her first appearances with the band in DC) and Amy Millan (of Stars). While the group’s two other famous singers Leslie Feist and Emily Haines were nowhere to be seen, Engle and Millan more than managed to handle the vocal duties well.
While the new record was the focus, with six songs including six songs including “Halfway Home,” “Protest Song,” and “Stay Happy” featuring throughout the night’s setlist, the band also spent a good deal of time with several of their previous albums. The band returned to You Forgot It in People for “Almost Crimes,” and played a number of songs from their 2005 self-titled album, including “7/4 (Shoreline),” “Fire Eye’d Boy,” “Handjobs for the Holidays,” and “Superconnected.”
With such a large group on stage and so much going on at all times, it would be easy for a band like Broken Social Scene to become overwhelming, but band leader Kevin Drew managed to reign it all in and keep the band sounding tight, while still often managing to fade back into the scene and let other members take the spotlight. The only thing which marred the night at times were issues with excessive bass, which overwhelmed the sound when they happened and buried some of the intricacies.
While most of the band left the stage briefly, Drew stayed on and talked about the expectations of the encore. The group returned to play a lengthy one with two more from the new album, the title track and “Skyline,” as well as three more from You Forgot It in People, “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” “Looks Just Like the Sun,” and, to bring things full circle, the song which they had opened the Tuesday night show with, “KC Accidental.”
Opening the show was Vancouver band The Belle Game, whose second album Fear/Nothing, produced by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, was released earlier this month.