Monday, December 13th, 2010
Forced To Love
Broken Social Scene and Superchunk at The Sound Academy in Toronto
Frank YangMost everyone in Toronto has some personal bar for which they’ll swallow their disdain and trek down to the port lands to see a show at the Sound Academy. Some less discerning about where they see a show will accept the logistical hassles and lousy sightlines as a the price that must be paid to see acts who’ve reached that “yeah we can draw 3000 people” plateau, whereas others would probably still hem and haw if you gave them the opportunity to see a reunited (albeit half-zombie) Beatles.
I lean more towards the latter than the former but have still been persuaded to head down three times this year, the latest this past Thursday evening for the first of two nights from Toronto’s own reigning indie rock heroes, Broken Social Scene. Not that they were the draw – I’d seen them three times already this year without even trying and my relationship with the band remains tepid. No, they got me down there the same way they probably got no small number of folks down there – by having Superchunk to open.
Just as when they teamed up with another set of resurrected college rock legends back in the Summer – Pavement on the islands, if you’ll recall – I’m sure that their intentions were noble, hoping to introduce some of today’s indie kids to their musical forebears, even if those who’d been waiting the longest for their return to town would have much preferred a full-length show of their own in comfier environs. But this is what it was and at least there was a good-sized crowd in place when the North Carolinans greeted Toronto for the first time in over nine years (their Mac-and-Jim acoustic in-store earlier that afternoon notwithstanding). And even if some of the kids had already gotten a primer on the band via their most excellent comeback album Majesty Shredding, their opening number was for the oldsters as they reached way back to 1991’s No Pocky For Kitty for “Throwing Things”.
Majesty material would comprise a third of their too-short 50-minute set, the rest coming from all points of their expansive catalog and all delivered with an energy that would have embarrassed bands half their age. It wasn’t the bull-out-of-the-gates performance they gave at Matador 21 in Vegas, wherein they basically stole the weekend and incited a pogo pit for the ages, but it was a great set that – sorry to harp on it – should have gone twice as long. I’d have liked to say that they converted everyone in attendance to ravening fans, but aside from a moderate number of pockets of people freaking out – moreso during “Slack Motherfucker” because everyone likes to swear at the top of their lungs – the response was good but not overwhelming. This was still clearly Broken’s audience and everyone else, no matter how legendary in their own right, was still just support.
There are some parallels between Superchunk and Broken Social Scene – both are revered bands who’ve started successful record labels – and they’re not that far apart in age, there’s some distance between the ‘Chunk’s concise and melodic archetypal college rock and Broken Social Scene’s sprawling kitchen sink jams. It’s like punks versus hippies, and the hippies were going to have themselves a love-in.
BSS opened up relatively small, with “World Sick” from this year’s Forgiveness Rock Record and just the now-core members on stage, but restraint is never in the cards for long at a Broken Social Scene hometown show. By the third song, the sublime “7/4 (Shoreline)” from their 2005 self-titled effort, the number of players had already ballooned into double figures and they’d made good on promises of having the whole family in attendance as Leslie Feist and a very pregnant Stars’ Amy Millan came out to trade verses and Metric’s Jimmy Shaw joined the expansive horn section.
Broken Social Scene’s modus operendi has always been to indulge in the chaos in order to extract the beauty, to throw everything/everyone on stage and let their chemistry do the rest, and the pros and cons of that approach were well on display throughout the night. The set didn’t seem to have been assembled with any particular arc in mind with the momentum building and ebbing from song to song and some recontextualized songs didn’t work as well as they’d probably hoped – “Super Connected” was dragged out to the point that the hooks lost their pointedness and trading the lead guitar on “Forced To Love” for flute was just weird. The sound man was probably living a nightmare trying to keep up with the constant stream of performers grabbing mics at random and while he did a commendable job, there were points when the lead vocalist was inaudible to the house. Also in the con column was Kevin Drew’s between song chatter, which I’ve personally never warmed to, as he rambled aimlessly, emceed the comings and goings of band members and towards the end, announced he was going to crowd surf as though he was about to walk on water. Dude, you just do it.
For all that, though, when Broken got it right, they made it clear why after all these years they still hold the hearts and minds of Toronto music fans so. Though still “the new girl”, Lisa Lobsinger was terrific on her Forgiveness lead turn “All To All” and then teaming with Amy Millan on perpetual BSS high point “Anthems For a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl”, while Feist proved why she’s become the biggest star in the Broken Solar System leading the massive band through a rousing reading of her own “I Feel It All” while making you wish that she’d just rock out once in a while. And for all that they’ve done since 2002, it was still You Forgot It In People that really gave the evening its heart. Songs like “Cause=Time”, “KC Accidental” and “Almost Crimes” continue to dazzle in a way that you just can’t put your finger on and have lost none of their magic, in particular the ability to silence those who’d otherwise criticize and complain at length about Broken Social Scene.
Their set was well past the the 90-minute mark before they closed out with a massive, super-extended, false ending after false ending version of Forgiveness instrumental jam “Meet Me In The Basement” and even though many were clearing out at that point, those who stayed got an extended (of course) encore that took things close to the two and a half hour mark before calling it a night. I’m at peace with the fact that I will probably never love Broken the way that thousands, apparently, still do – which is to say that I am at peace with the fact that it will never be 2003 again – but come for the Superchunk, stay for the Broken Social Scene? I can still do that.
eye, Chart and NOW also have reviews of the show. Spinner talks to Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan about his/their relationship with Broken Social Scene and Toronto. Metro, Centre Town News, aux.tv and Spinner talk to various Broken Socialites.
Photos: Broken Social Scene, Superchunk @ The Sound Academy – December 9, 2010
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Fire Eye’d Boy”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Hotel”
MP3: Superchunk – “Digging For Something”
MP3: Superchunk – “Misfits & Mistakes”
MP3: Superchunk – “Never Too Young To Smoke”
MP3: Superchunk – “Rainy Streets”
MP3: Superchunk – “Becoming A Speck”
MP3: Superchunk – “Pink Clouds”
MP3: Superchunk – “Detroit Has A Skyline” (acoustic)
MP3: Superchunk – “Nu Bruises”
MP3: Superchunk – “Skip Steps 1 & 3″
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Texico Bitches”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Forced To Love”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Meet Me In The Basement”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “7/4 (Shoreline)”
Video: Broken Social Scene -“Fire Eye’d Boy”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Her Disappearing Scene”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Major Label Debut”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Cause = Time”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Lover’s Spit”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “I’m Still Your Fag”
Video: Superchunk – “Digging For Something”
Video: Superchunk – “Art Class”
Video: Superchunk – “Watery Hands”
Video: Superchunk – “Hyper Enough”
Video: Superchunk – “Driveway To Driveway”
Video: Superchunk – “The First Part”
Video: Superchunk – “Precision Auto”
Video: Superchunk – “Untied”
Video: Superchunk – “Package Thief”
Video: Superchunk – “Mower”
Video: Superchunk – “Throwing Things”
Video: Superchunk – “Fishing”
Myspace: Broken Social Scene