Broken Social Scene's set clocked in at a robust, marathon-length two-and-a-half hours. By night's end, the nugget of wisdom once uttered by TV buffoon George Costanza rang through my mind like a gong: Leave on a high note.
The sad part of last night's aching-back affair was that the venerable Toronto indie scenesters had more than enough high notes to end on. Instead, they finished their marathon set an hour-and-a-half past the cut-off point and with one of their weakest songs: "It's All Gonna Break" off 2005's self-titled album. For those who don't know, it's a ribald little jam that references sodomy. Hey, I'm all for fart, poop and ass jokes, but there has to be a punch line beyond making references to eating feces.
Regardless, the show began to slide into yawn-worthy territory long before this scatological gem with songs such as "World Sick," the opening track off the band's 2010 Forgiveness Rock Record. The song, which inhabits well-tread thunder-drum and space-guitar territory à la Coldplay, U2 and Peter Gabriel served as a reminder that BSS's best work is behind them. And who can blame them? Everybody in the band seems to be in multiple side projects.
Of course the evening also held more than its fair share of pleasant surprises. Classics such as "7/4 (Shoreline)" didn't fail to induce chills when guitarists suddenly abandoned their axes for trumpets and trombones to blast away triumphantly at the final refrain. All the while, lead singer Kevin Drew's smooth, croony vocals (which sound as good live as on record despite the fact he had a cold) were accompanied by the soft howl of multi-instrumentalist Lisa Lobsinger. She was clad in a billowy black dress with her thick bundle of hair pulled from back to front spilling tendrils and curls over the sides of her face--the comely yin to Drew's shabby yang.
Other highlights included the song "Fire Eye'd Boy" whose intro included the signature drop-D guitar tuning accompanied by some rousing keyboard effects, which seemed to mimic the growl of a jaguar over squalls of humming guitars. The band, though loose in their approach to actually playing their music, run their sets with the consistency of a well-constructed machine. Instruments are hoisted and exchanged, members shuffle positions and switch gear seamlessly.
Watching them for the first hour, it occurred to me these guys are every bit as talented as their Canadian counterparts in Arcade Fire. It was just too much. By the end, my eyes were on the exit.
The Crowd: Hipster central. Very little diversity in style. Flannel shirts, fedoras and skinny jeans.
Overheard: "Play four more," yelled someone in the crowd when Kevin Drew mentioned the fact that the band often gets criticized for playing too long.
Personal bias: I would have liked to hear "Looks Just Like the Sun" from You Forgot It in People.
Random notebook dump:
There was an alarming number of people running from the front of the crowd toward the exits with hands over mouths. Too much preshow imbibery perhaps?
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