Photograph by Danielle St. Laurent

January 16, 2011 – Making up for their previous cancellation due to Snowmaggedon 2010, Broken Social Scene’s first concert in London, Ontario was a rousing success. Along for the ride was the Most Serene Republic, who I last saw shortly after the release of their second album, Population. With so many members, their last performance could best be described as chaotic, so I was hoping they would manage to be a little more ordered this night. The band parted ways with vocalist Emma Ditchburn early last year, so I was also curious to see how that void would be filled. Apparently the answer was Adrian Jewett taking over her lead vocals on the former duet ‘Heavens to Purgatory’, while the rest of the band chipped in on backing vocals. They definitely satisfied during their brief appearance, particularly during their debut single, ‘Content Was Always My Favourite Colour’.

My previous Broken Social Scene experiences have both been during their annual Toronto Island Concerts. The general consensus is that this is the best way to see the band, but I was curious to see how they fared without relying on guest appearances from Leslie Feist, Emily Haines, and others. The core members behind Forgiveness Rock Record were all present, and aside from members of the Most Serene Republic occasionally acting as a horn section, it was their night, and it felt remarkably more pure than the festival appearances. There’s something to be said for the spectacle of the island shows, but I much preferred the intimacy of the London Music Hall. From the opening notes of ‘World Sick’, the capacity crowd was on their feet, singing along and having the best Sunday ever. The setlist covered most of Forgiveness Rock Record , but what really impressed were the deep cuts. For the first time in five years, the band played ‘Canada vs. America’, from the EP To Be You and Me, which was unexpected, to say the least.

Aside from having some fun with the setlist, the band’s attitude also seemed to be different this time around. Mercifully, Kevin Drew stayed away from political diatribes (unless you count inciting the crowd to sing parts of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ during a song’s coda) and remained appreciative of the adoring crowd. Of course, his crowd surfing encouraged a number of meatheads to do the same,  culminating in a guy tackling Brendan Canning’s microphone stand. Apart from crowd jackassery, the night had a sombre moment when ‘Superconnected’ was dedicated to Trish Keenan of Broadcast, who passed away from pneumonia late last week. ‘Chase Scene’, notable for being one of the few tracks on Forgiveness Rock Record not being played on tour, made a re-appearance, with Lisa Lobsinger again ably filling Feist’s shoes. She would do the same for Emily Haines on ‘Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl’. Once again, despite the band’s reputation for being a sprawling collective, I found I didn’t miss the string of cameos. Pared down to its core, it’s clear that the band is more than the sum of its parts.

Broken Social Scene – Major Label Debut (Fast)
The Most Serene Republic – Heavens to Purgatory

World Sick
Texico Bitches
Stars and Sons
7/4 Shoreline
All to All
Fire Eye’d Boy
Forced to Love
Art House Director
Cause = Time
Sweetest Kill
Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl
Chase Scene
Ungrateful Little Father
KC Accidental
Water in Hell
Lover’s Spit
Meet Me in the Basement

Looks Just Like the Sun
Canada Vs. America
Ibi Dreams of Pavement
Major Label Debut

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— , January 22, 2011    Comments Off on Broken Social Scene: London Music Hall