Saturday, August 28th, 2004
It's All Gonna Break
So that is something was really have to do more often. Free concerts on the lake’s edge? Yes, please. Last night’s Broken Social Scene/Jim Guthrie show at the Harbourfront Centre showed that a free Summer concert series like they run at Central Park in New York City is viable here in Toronto… Of course, I say that with absolutely no idea of the costs involved with doing so. I just want more free concerts for my Summer evenings. Especially if they’re as good as this one was.
So about the show: I’m familiar with Jim Guthrie mainly as the guitarist for Royal City. I’d heard some of his solo stuff but didn’t think much of it beyond it being decent singer-songwriter-y stuff. Maybe I hadn’t heard the right stuff because the material he brought out for this show was good – very good – and a lot of that credit goes to the song arrangements. It seems like faint praise to compliment the arrangements, it sounds kinda like saying, “yeah – you know that part in that song where you did that thing? I liked that”, but the strings and horns really lifted the songs up to another level. His latest album Now, More Than Ever has done really well on Metacritic… I should probably investigate his stuff further. Also in his favour is that in his guitar face, possibly on the best in the city, is equally portable to ukelele. Try that, Steve Vai.
One thing to be said for these big public shows is that at least they run on time, which was awful convenient for the kids who showed up right at nine to stand in front of my seat in the front row. Yeah, because I got here more than three hours ago for the express purpose of having you show up five minutes before showtime to block my view. Thanks for making my dream come true. That little gripe aside (and it was minor because I was taller than them), it was a terrific show. Widely advertised as the Scene’s “last ever show” (it wasn’t – Kevin Drew is just a drama queen, and that’s the last I’ll say about that minor stunt), the 2-hour show managed to convey almost the same intense love-in vibe from the last time I saw them at Lee’s last June. I say “almost” because you can’t really recreate the atmosphere and ambience of a sold-out hot and sweaty club show in a refined outdoor setting with a big corporate sponsorship banner hanging over the stage, but they sure as hell tried.
They should really sell programs before each of their shows complete with a starting lineup card so you can keep score of who’s there and who isn’t. In additional to the usual core group, they were augmented by Emily Haines and James Shaw from Metric, Amy Millan from Stars, Bill Priddle (ex-Treble Charger) and probably a dozen or so folks whose names and bands elude me. John Crossingham from Raising The Fawn is still using my old Telecaster as his #1 guitar – it amuses me to no end that my old guitar has probably already seen more of the world than I ever will. All told, there were probably upwards of 20 Broken Social Scenesters on this night, sometimes as many as six guitars going at once, a four-piece horn section and countless dancers and percussionists. Truly they looked to be having a good time and the crowd fed off that, although there were probably as many curious passers-by in the audience as there were devoted fans.
The thing I’ve realized about Broken Social Scene is that they’re not really about the songs. They’re about the energy and the emotion, and the songs are mostly vehicles for that energy. If you listen closely, a lot of them are loose, jam-heavy tunes with enough of a pop nugget core to give them the necessary hooks but not really meticulously crafted pieces of songcraft. And while that may not get them very far in Performing Songwriter polls, it does go a long way in creating that intangible vibe that leaves everyone – audience and performer – breatheless. I mean, I couldn’t even name half the songs they played (not just because I’m crap at remembering them), a good number of them being new or at least not on the albums, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the performance in the least. BSS’s appeal transcends the songs, if that makes any sense.
Even though the opportunity has presented itself many times, I don’t go and see the Broken Social Scene live very often. Just twice in the past year and a bit. I think part of it is that when I do see them, it’s such an experience that I don’t want to dilute it with the realization that they can pull off that sort of performance on a regular basis, assuming that they do. I prefer to think of it as a special occasion, you know? Like farewell shows that really aren’t. Wonderful stuff.
Also making yesterday special was the fact that is was the coming out party for my new camera. Granted, a brightly-lit outdoor venue isn’t really a good measure of how it’s going to do in a dark club, but I’m still quite heartened by how my pics came out. The first 40 or 50 pics I took weren’t especially usable as I fumbled with ISO settings, shutter speed, apeture, white balance and exposure settings. Who knew that cameras with full manual could be so complicated? Eventually I found a combination that was netting me good results, though I think I’m still a little over-exposed overall. Take a look for yourself. I especially like the fact that the camera’s resolution and image quality is good enough that I can use the digital zoom to tweak in that little bit extra and not have any noticable image degradation. Nice.
I don’t think I’ll be making the Hidden Cameras show tonight, other plans have come up, but it would be nice to see what sort of reaction they’d get from the unsuspecting tourist types who are just out for a walk along the lake front.
np – Broken Social Scene / You Forgot It In People