When Canadian collective Broken Social Scene announced last year that they were ending their seven year hiatus, the band’s de facto leader Kevin Drew said their return was because the world had become a scarier and more unstable place to be, and he felt compelled to provide a positive response to world events. No one could have foreseen just how prophetic this sentiment would be when the band began their run of live shows the day following the horrific attack in Manchester.
But at tonight’s show (24 May) at London’s Brixton Academy, and during the preceding night’s set in Manchester, Broken Social Scene reinforced a tone of solidarity and togetherness, something that was poignant and heartfelt, and resonated with everyone in attendance.
Starting off with “Lover’s Spit” Drew appeared on stage and lovingly welcomed the crowd as though he’d just bumped into a gang of old drinking buddies, before the band broke into the rousing “Halfway Home”, which featured a stunning lead vocal turn from the band’s Ariel Engle.
Broken Social Scene have always operated more as collective than a band, with a rotating cast of members, mainly held together by Kevin Drew and long time collaborator Brendan Canning. This means that when you go to a BSS show, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. But there was a celebratory feel to this show as all the major BSS crew were, including Emily Haines (Metric), which led to a dizzying 10+ people on stage at any one time. The only notable absence was Leslie Feist, who has just released her fifth solo album and, we assume, is probably pretty busy right now.
The stage, now filled, roared with the New Order-esque swagger of “7/4 Shoreline” as members glanced at each other clearly thrilled to be preforming together again. It seemed like a cathartic experience, and it was for the crowd, too. After a slick rendition of the title track from their forthcoming new album Hug Of Thunder, Drew had the lights turned up and invited the crowd to scream as loud as they could. Everyone obliged, as did the band, and the collective release was palpable.
After a poignant take on “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” which, as it had been the night before, was dedicated to all those affected but the recent events in Manchester, the band forged forward with “Fire Eye’d Boy” and the vociferously rousing “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)” to close off their main set.
But before the applause had the chance to diminish Kevin Drew and Emily Haines returned with a stripped down acoustic version of “Backyards” before the band returned for a blisteringly intense homage to their own Canadian music scene in the form of “KC Accidental”.
As the lights came up and the obligatory ‘end of the evening’ music began playing over the PA system, Drew re-entered the stage. “Hey, we’ve still got some time, right?” Drew announced like a commanding big-top impresario. “Fuck it, we’re gonna do one more!” and an impromptu “Almost Crimes” rang out, it’s crescendo elongated and thrashed out to ear-ringing effect.
Tonight, Broken Social Scene delivered a cathartic, rousing and vital set that served as a reminder of how missed the band have been in the intervening seven years. It’s good to have them back.