Two years ago I had a remarkable experience. A night of unbridled joy. Broken Social Scene at the Metro was a three hour set of epic proportions. So my expectations for their return to Australia were quite high. Last night, they returned and played a two hour, energetic, passionate show at the Manning Bar. And yet, it was a disappointment. For one reason, the sound. No matter how great a band is, and Broken Social Scene are a great band, if they sound like they are playing through a meat grinder it can only harm the experience. To say the least. Firstly, what would the lineup be? Was it a Kevin Drew show or a BSS show. Would we see 10, 12 or even 18 members. Well we received 6, plus a special guest, and this presented a problem too. For although the six are core members and phenomenally gifted musicians, it meant a guitar heavy show. There was a distinct lack of lightness to the night. Only Charles Spearin on a lone trumpet provided any brass, and no strings or few female vocals meant I felt bludgeoned rather then caressed. This could have been avoided with even a reasonable sound mix, as BSS always bring the guitar barrage. But normally you can hear the space between the strings, the light touches.
So, the band tried their hardest. Kevin Drew entered the stage and introduced every one in the band, one by one. What great talents they are. Charles Spearin, Brendan Canning, Andrew Whiteman, Justin Peroff and new member Sam Goldberg. Kevin is a great mood setter. Directly communicating with the audience, he states categorically that this will be a great night if we all invest heavily. Then he announces a special guest, Feist. Crowd goes nuts and they launch into "KC Accidental". I should be on cloud nine, but the sound is making me grind my teeth. The drums are pounding my chest, but in a bad way. The bass is way too low, the vocals are barely there and the guitar just sounds crunchy. This continued for a few songs, even in my dearly loved "Cause=Time". Feist took the vocals on "Fucked Up Kid" and she was gesticulating about the vocals. After this song the band took a short break to clear up the mess. Full credit to them for caring. They soon returned and fired into "Fire Eye'd Boy". The vocals were markedly improved but I thought the music was still a sludge. It all felt a little heavy handed too. Their wall of sound works perfectly, but only when the sound is crystal clear. The band ploughed on and only the force of the songs and their sheer vivacity made the music listenable. Andrew Whiteman, his first tour with the band in over a year, took the reins on "Looks Just The Sun" then Brendan Canning played a new song from his upcoming album. "Water in Hell". I really liked it, its feeling was very Pavement. Kevin then played another new one. He said it was about a town in Mexico. I think it was called "Tempus Flight?". I enjoyed it too. The song brought a very random moment as well. Two guys near me pulled out a Mexican flag and waved it wildly. I wondered, do they take a Mexican flag to all shows in the hope that some one mentions their country or did they have some inside information? Who knows.
Well, the show continued. To a frenetic and funnily enough satisfying ending. Feist took the lead on "Almost Crimes" and she belted it out. The sheer energy of this song overcoming the sound issues. The band was really flowing now. Kevin Drew became more and more chatty. Directly communicating with the audience as only he can. He got up close and personal during "Major Label Debut", even borrowing an audience members' glasses. As the song subsided the band left the stage, leaving Kevin alone with his guitar. He started to slowly release the chords on "It's All Gonna Break", playing slowly but surely. He was joined by Spearin and Canning for an eerily beautiful rendition. Then the band rejoined and they launched fully into the song. Reminding all that were there, what an incredibly talented band this is. There was a night of greatness somewhere out there, I could feel it and want it. I just couldn't hear it.
Stars And Sons
Farewell To The Pressure Kids
Fucked Up Kid
Fire Eye'd Boy
Backed Out On The Cocks
Looks Just Like The Sun
Water In Hell (new Brendan Canning song)
Tepotzlan (new song, I believe this to be the title)
Major Label Debut (Fast)
It's All Gonna Break
I posted some more photos at my Flickr.
I managed to get a few nice ones, despite the atrocious lighting. For half the night the band was cloaked in near darkness or extremely bright lights were shone directly at the audience. Just a word of advice. The audience prefers to see the band and still leave the venue with their eyesight intact.