Broken Social Scene brings powerful performance

By Alyssa Creamer

Seeing Broken Social Scene at the Calvin Theater in Northampton last Tuesday night left

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

audience members with this simple fact in mind: the band likes to do things on a grand scale.

The word ‘grand’ should not ring any association with fancy, fine dining or upper-class experiences in any way.  To anyone who has ever listened to a Broken Social Scene album, their indie sound is constantly defined by its elaborate combination of a multitude of instruments, both traditional and unusual, and its ever-expanding members’ list. The band generates big sounds from big talent.

Broken Social Scene produced a spectacular and powerful energy during its live performance at the Calvin from the moment those instruments were placed into the hands of the band’s talented musicians. The group’s chemistry comes from years of friendship and work-relationships, including  four full-length albums , which sound even better live.

With so many band members, 10 of whom played on Tuesday, it’s as though Broken Social Scene is at the center of a web from which all of these phenomenal artists and musicians branch away to perform their other musical endeavors, only to come back and display a massive surge of talent on one stage.

Playing at least one song from each of its four full-length albums, Feel Good Lost (2001), You Forgot It In People (2002), Broken Social Scene (2005) and Forgiveness Rock Record (2010), the set list was diversified enough to please indie rock fans of each of the band’s different musical eras.

At several points during the show, audience members screamed out “I love the set list” and “the set list is awesome,” proving that the majority of attendees were thrilled with the variety of songs the band chose to perform during their two hours on stage.

The band primarily played tracks off of their newest album and also leaned heavily on You Forgot It In People, which, along with Broken Social Scene’s self-titled album, has won the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year.

A big kudos to the light technician for Broken Social Scene, who designed a lively, well-timed and entertaining light show that truly enhanced the atmosphere and tones of each song. With blue lights softening Lisa Lobsinger’s beautifully melodic soprano during the song “All to All”, everyone in the crowd was mesmerized.

The band dispersed at one point, leaving Kevin Drew, one of the founding members of BSS, alone on stage at his keyboard, playing a somber and eclectic beat. As his strong voice resonated throughout the concert hall, singing the lyrics of “Lover’s Spit,” a track from You Forgot It In People, the heads in the audience nodded to the pulse. One by one the other eight members returned to the stage quietly, picked up their instruments, fueling suspense as Drew’s solo wound down. Then Drew took one breath and suddenly the collective fulfilled the audiences’ anticipation by rejoining in a fury of musical fireworks.

Another fantastic element was the audibility of the vocals, which were not overwhelmed by the instruments – a delightful rarity at a live performance, especially for those fans that may not have had the opportunity to memorize the lyrics from the band’s newest album.

Before Broken Social Scene took the stage, the indie rock group The Sea and Cake charmed listeners with their mechanical and jazzy beats, though it was more pretty noise than anything lyrically substantial. As opening acts go, it was fair but nothing special, and in between songs there were awkward silences and one could feel the impatience of the audience for the headliners they were really pining to see.

One of Broken Social Scene’s founding members, guitarist Brendan Canning, emerged during the opening set to join The Sea and Cake, at which point his bass skills upped the mood of the satisfied listeners.

Then later, once Broken Social Scene graced the stage, The Sea and Cake’s drummer John McEntire joined in to complete the two-drummer, four-guitarist, maraca-playing, saxophone-jamming, harmonica-wielding, and vocally stunning collective.

The bands’ members also traded instruments, substituting flutes and keyboards, and exchanging lead vocals, which allowed the audience’s attention to never be centered on any one person.. This factor alone made for both a refreshing and visually stimulating experience, as well as a strengthened appreciation for this showcase of varied talents.

The songs which generated the greatest audience reactions were “Fire Eye’d Boy,” “KC Accidental,” which Drew may have intentionally forgotten the lyrics to twice and had the audience sing along so he could get back on track, “Guilty Cubicles,” which was the only hit the band played off their debut album, and “Lover’s Spit.”

Alyssa Creamer can be reached at [email protected] Emily Felder can be reached at [email protected]