Review: Broken Social Scene brings Ithaca to its feet

Canadian indie rock collective put on a singularly emotional, two-hour show.

Kevin Drew started the night off by letting the audience know the exact atmosphere he wanted to create.

“It’s a Friday night, let’s pretend we’re all at a basement party somewhere in Ohio.” He paused and took in the scene at the Ithaca State Theater, “At least it is a Friday night.”

Drew might’ve said the crowd was in for a basement party, but the formal theater setting was perfect. The sounds of “Pacific Theme,” off their landmark album You Forgot It in People, came immediately after. It was a fitting start to the night as the band led with one of its most well known instrumentals, exchanging the main theme between bass, guitar and later a trumpet and tenor saxophone unison.  No matter how much they said differently, Broken Social Scene showcased why they are the epitome of a modern ensemble and not merely some basement rock band on Friday night.

(Photo: Caitlin Dewey)

The band played nearly every track you would request during their marathon two and a half hour set (including all but three tracks from You Forgot It in People). They weaved in new tracks from this year’s Forgiveness Rock Record alongside instrumentals from their 2001 debut with each song appearing just as polished as the last.  Each song sounded as if they’d been rehearsing for days on end like a symphony or orchestra. Every memorable solo came to the forefront, each exchanged riff or tempo change was precise and together. Considering the fact that ten band members interchanged instruments (banjos, auxiliary percussion, a flute) and came on and off stage pending a song’s arrangement, the level of musicianship on display was far beyond any normal Friday night rock concert.

This isn’t to say that Broken Social Scene left the audience without the experiences any concertgoer desires.  A large majority of the crowd was on their feet throughout and Drew embraced the rock concert clichés to an extent. He came out alone on keyboard to start the ballad “Lovers’ Spit” and the audience was moved to attempt clapping along in unison.  Drew accepted it for a verse before proceeding to stop and playfully encourage a sing-a-long rather than a clap-a-long (“I know everyone felt a bit awkward with the clapping, me too. It got emotional there.”).  Instances like the audience nailing the clap in “Stars and Sons” were seminal concert feelings, but largely the intricate soundscapes and high musicianship were the focus rather than stage antics and crowd dancing.

Drew ended the night by introducing all the band members and crew saying, “It takes a show to put on a show.”  The sentiment couldn’t be truer. Broken Social Scene aren’t a band known for endless touring, so nights like this are special and clearly given to a lot of preparation.  You Forgot It in People gained countless accolades throughout the decade for being an album with so much subtle layering, technique and emotion in it. The band’s stage performance was a loyal replicate, and a show that well done deserves the notoriety of being a potentially once-in-a-decade experience.

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