You may recall that Broken Social Scene’s pre-Junos concert in April 2006 topped my list of last year’s best concerts. Hell, it was one of the most exciting, exhilarating shows I’ve ever seen, period. Basically, Kevin Drew and the rest of the BSS family earned so much musical capital with me that even if Drew had shown up last night with a mule and washboard for musical accompaniment, I’d still not regret buying a ticket.
Thankfully, neither mule nor washboard was present at the Marquee Club last night. Instead, Drew brought along a familiar band of brethren to tour his recently-released (and quite excellent) solo album under the “Broken Social Scene presents Kevin Drew” banner. Joining BSS regulars Brendan Canning and Justin Peroff were Bill Priddle (formerly of Treble Charger), Sam Goldberg (Uncut) and Andrew Kenny (The American Analog Set). Together, this sausage-fest incarnation of the Social Scene graciously visited Halifax to start off their fall tour, which next crosses the Atlantic for a 15-date trek through Europe.
With no opening act to warm up the crowd, Drew and company needed to bring the energy from the get-go, and smartly opened with “Lucky Ones,” possibly the most explosive track on the new record. From that moment on, the crowd was theirs. Perhaps it’s because I’m usually up front where the keeners are, but every time I see an incarnation of Broken Social Scene there’s a buzz in the crowd that’s not usually there with your average concert. My theory is that it’s because the band, and Drew in particular, are among the most generous performers out there, throwing their heart into every show as if it’s their last and always treating their crowd with respect. I’ve seen the band battle tech concerns, lighting issues and instrument problems the few times I’ve seen them, but I’ve never seen them let those affect their performance.
Drew played nine Spirit If…tracks in total, and while they were well-received by the crowd – in particular, first single “Backed Out on the…” and “Safety Bricks” – they obviously saved their biggest reactions for Broken Social Scene classics. I was curious how the band of six would pull off songs that I last saw with a band of 20+, but they sounded fantastic as they rocked tracks like “Superconnected,” “Cause = Time,” “Lover’s Spit” and a diving-into-the-crowd version of “Major Label Debut.” If anything, the songs might have come across a little more energetic than usual since the band had a little more room to maneuver onstage.
But what moved the night’s proceedings from “impressive” to “memorable” were the extracurricular activities. Early in the set, Drew brought out Halifax’s own Jill Barber to sing “tbft” with the band, her sultry vocals acting as a nice reprieve from the boys-only scene on stage. And towards the end of the set – “this is where the encore would be,” said Drew, declining to go through the empty formality of walking offstage and back – the band threw a curveball into their set by playing Tom Cochrane’s “Boy Inside the Man.” The band had played the song with Cochrane two nights earlier, and while Drew’s voice cracked as he strained for the high notes, it was still a fun inclusion (though I’m guessing they’ll be leaving the CanCon covers behind as they jet off to Europe).
After a crowd-participation version of “When it Begins,” the show appeared to have reached its end. But there was one slight problem: the Haligonians in attendance, who at this point had been bouncing and dancing along for more than an hour and a half, weren’t having any of it. We wanted one more send-off. Surprisingly, we got our wish: out came the band one last song.
“This is the first time we’ve ever played this,” said Drew, leading me to think that it was probably going to be some obscure song from the band’s back catalogue, perhaps from Feel Good Lost. But then I recognized the chords…that synthesizer line…that guitar jangle…holy leapin’ lizards of Leningrad…it’s…
WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME.
At this point, I basically geek out. I’m hardly the world’s biggest U2 fan, but “Where the Streets Have No Name” is arguably everything that’s great about 1980s U2 rolled into one stunning anthem, and it would probably make my list of best album openers of all time. It’s also a perfect fit for Broken Social Scene’s soaring romanticism. I have no idea how good their cover was; I was too busy jumping around to every pound of the drum kit, singing every line at the top of my lungs (so I guess that means it must have been at least decent).
This experience then led to two moments, one which I won’t soon forget and one which I won’t soon live down.
Moment #1 (the good one): Kevin Drew stumbles over the third verse of the song and, realizing that I know the lyrics better than he does, hands over the microphone for me to sing the next line.
Moment #2 (the not-so-good one): I sing the wrong line. I didn’t stumble or anything, but I sang about the “poison rain” instead of the “desert plain.” I’m not sure anyone noticed that it had it wrong, and Drew had fucked it up earlier in the song too, but I was still incredibly embarrassed. I intend on listening to The Joshua Tree several times today in the hopes of preventing this atrocity from ever occurring again.
My photographic evidence didn’t capture “Where the Streets Have No Name” – too busy enjoying the moment – but my camera caught a number of the other highlights throughout the evening (full setlist at the bottom).
In case you’re averse to reading upside down rock band shorthand, here’s the full setlist that Drew and his crew ended up playing (with spontaneous covers thrown in):
Cause = Time
F–Ked Up Kid
Tbtf (with Jill Barber)
Hit a Wall (from Brendan Canning’s upcoming solo disc)
Stars and Sons
Farewell to the Pressure Kids
Gang Bang Suicide (aborted – Drew thought it was too slow to play)
Guilty Cubicles / Superconnected
Backed out on the…
Bodhi Sappy Weekend
Major Label Debut (Fast)
Boy Inside the Man (Tom Cochrane & Red Rider cover)
When it Begins
Where the Streets Have No Name (U2 cover)