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Click here for photos of the second of these shows in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery

Click here for all of QRO’s coverage of Broken Social Scene in QRO’s ‘Spotlight On : Broken Social Scene’ feature

 

There are certain albums from the aughts that are indie music touchstones, Gen Y’s own Neverminds: The Strokes’ Is This It, LCD Soundsystem’s LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – and Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People. One of the bands & records that broke out in the ‘Canadian Invasion’ back when, you might still even have it on CD (or a CD-R burned from a friend…). The Toronto alt-rock collective celebrated the album’s 20th anniversary with a tour that ended at New York’s Webster Hall on Saturday & Sunday, October 15th & 16th.

 

For both nights, it was a packed Webster (QRO venue review), both in the crowd & on stage, as BSS brought their full complement of actors, horns & guest vocalists included. Yet the set list wasn’t a strict ‘play the album front-to-back, then add some other stuff after the encore break,’ but rather just mostly sticking to People, with a few additions pepper in, a few songs rearranged, even skipping opening instrumental “Capture the Flag” and closing instrumental “Pitter Patter Goes My Heart”. On Saturday night, frontman Kevin Drew noted that they’d “veered off” from People at one point, saying that he’d seen Alanis Morissette do it that way when she toured the anniversary of her Jagged Little Pill, inspiring him & the band.

 

Starting with near-instrumental “K.C. Accidental” and then “Stars and Sons”, sung by bassist Brendan Canning, meant that Drew didn’t take center stage for the open of either night. He’s always been one to shine the spotlight on others in the band, from doing introductions for everyone at various times, to even going to the keyboard in the back at times. During “Stars” on both nights, Drew even left the stage entirely, sneaking out around the crowd [going past your correspondent on Saturday] and then ending up in the photo pit on the other side [bumping into your correspondent on Sunday], to flash a small stuffed doll at guitarist Andrew Whiteman, perching the doll on Whiteman’s monitor in front of him, as well as taking a selfie video the fans up front.

 
 

But it wasn’t just Drew who was excited to be back on stage, on their first proper tour since COVID wrecked our lives. Canning managed to thrown in even more high-kicks and jumps than he usually does, while Whiteman was his usual unusual self. Special mention has to be made of multi-instrumentalist Charles Spearin; normally the calm one in the band (he may play everything including horns, but never sings), it was great to watch him & his signature mustache get wacky up there.

On this tour, BSS not only had longtime collaborator Amy Millan of Stars in her usual vocalist spot, but also newcomer Jill Harris of Wayne Gretzky to give the evening a dual female vocals effect. Millan came in after “Stars”, introduced for the giant celebration that is “Almost Crimes”, while Harris would come in a little later, when the group started to veer off the Forgotten track with “7/4 (Shoreline)”, the hit single from their self-titled follow-up (that originally launched Leslie Feist). Unfortunately, regular drummer Justin Peroff had to drop out of the tour tens before it started, but the band managed to get Loel Campbell of Wintersleep to learn the songs & jump on the skins.

 

One thing that made People so memorable was that it could go from big up-rock like “Crimes” right into the chill of the following “Looks Just Like the Sun”, and thankfully BSS didn’t switch that up live. Indeed, the performances were great showcases not just for the songs you knew you loved like “Stars”, “Crimes” or “Cause = Time”, but also those you might have Forgot, such as “Sun”, “Pacific Theme” – and “I’m Still Your Fag”. Each night before playing that rarity, Drew would take the time out – “Love song portion of the show” – to explain its origins (a love affair he had when he was a young man with a man named Rob), how “fag” was a powerful word when he was growing up, hadn’t thought of it at the time but others were noting it on this tour. Indeed, he would check with the crowd that it was okay to play (of course said yes), but he’s nothing if not a polite Canadian (on the printed out setlists, it’s written as “I’M STILL YOUR F^G”…).

 

After “Shoreline”, the band stayed with Broken Social Scene for “Fire Eye’d Boy”, to give Whiteman a turn at lead vocals. Both nights Drew admitted to diverting from People, saying that they just really wanted to play a newer song, bringing out “Stay Happy” from their last record, 2017’s Hug of Thunder (QRO review), with Harris on lead vocals – on Sunday, they even managed later to fit in Thunder’s title track (the one difference in the two nights’ setlists). And 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record (QRO review) had “Sweetest Kill”, Drew noting that he didn’t actually want to play the sweet piece, every night on tour trying not to, but Spearin would overrule him. While Drew didn’t sing it from in the crowd like they had in the past, both nights he got a fan’s phone and did his own video of the performance on stage.

 

As the album/evening drew closer to the end, the band largely left the stage as Drew went onto his back keyboard (this time with a spotlight) to start People’s “Lover’s Spit”. On Saturday, he messed up the start of the lyrics, noting that he would jump to the “masturbatory rhyme” – when Canning came in to join, he asked, “What’d I miss?…” That went into BSS’ big “It’s All Gonna Break”, with the guitars from Whiteman, Spearin, Drew, Canning, and guitarist Sam Goldberg up in the air – on Sunday night, Canning actually lied down during its chiller portion, his feet in the air.

While somewhat rearranging the setlist was to get in some other, non-People songs, it was also to move to the end the seminal “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl”. Such a hit that its chorus of “Park that car / Drop that phone / Sleep on the floor / Dream about me” has become its own meme, it’s also noted for adding in even another guest female vocals (like Maggie Rogers at SXSW 2019 – QRO photos). On Saturday night, Drew ‘merely’ thanked a leading lady in the balcony, actress Busy Phillips, noting that she’d been at an L.A. show of their back when they were originally touring People, and has supported the band ever since.

But on Sunday night, Drew got to bring onto stage none other than iconic comedian Tracey Ullman – who herself pulled onto stage while singing none other than iconic actress Meryl Streep!!! Streep seemed to be Ullman’s plus-one, and while Ullman was confident on stage, Streep was a little shocked. She also didn’t “drop that phone,” holding it up to video the event, but you can forgive the Oscar winner (no one would tell her to “sleep on the floor,” or even to “park that car”…).

 

That would have been enough for any show, and “Anthems” seemed to be the scheduled close, but both night in New York Drew noted that they enough time for one more, bringing out BSS’s own anthem, “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)” – as well as getting the usually reticent Spearin to add some words of encouragement to the crowd – for a massive final close that also featured a cathartic, ‘let it all go’ scream.

It’s tough these days, when everything seems to have been better back-when – not just for the MAGA crowd, but those who miss the likes of Obama and a pre-economic collapse world. And there are good reasons to have your loves from back then, your loves that you still love. But Broken Social Scene reminded us all not just to keep loving You Forgot It In People, but to keep on going, to carry the good with you, let go of the bad, that, as Drew said opening Saturday night, “We are here to remind you that we are alive and you are alive!”

 

 

Categories: STYLE