If you’ve ever been to a Christian church, odds are that forgiveness was the assumed to be a chief reason for attending, joining, frequenting or even, truly believing in the message. And if you weren’t raised with a church in your life, you probably found the likelihood of such forgiveness occurring less than convincing. How could every malicious thing you ever did be wipe away under the doctrine of one word? Or maybe more importantly, how can we forget one bad thing we’ve done to each other and move on? But churches thrive because people need to think all is well, they need to think that they are good people themselves and even when they make a mistake, and they need to think being sorry is enough for another chance. The last place you would look for forgiveness is a rock record, but on Monday night Kevin Drew was the most convincing preacher I have ever seen.
I realized at the first welcome to the crowd made by Drew (along with the revelation that Brendan Canning had the flu and the show almost had to be canceled) that I had never seen Broken Social Scene perform on TV or in person. I always was missing out on opportunities, which nearly happened again when this show, held at Hollywood’s Music Box at Fonda (that is the only time I will call it that, as locals know it as The Fonda or the Henry Fonda Theater), sold out two and a half months before the actual date. This was somewhat surprising, but Broken Social Scene is fairly established and it is a relatively small venue (about 1200 people). But this was not your typical L.A. indie show. No, apparently just about everybody loves forgiveness, as the band brought in one of the most ethnically diverse and jaw-droppingly gorgeous groups of fans to gather at an event this small.
The last time BSS was in L.A., it was for Sunset Junction, a cheap street fair in a hip part of town that draws people from all over. The band’s reputation for putting on shows like they do, well, it is not surprising that the next time they come back, nearly two years later, people from all over return to see them and seem to enthusiastically know every song, including the ones that technically are not released until the day after, when Forgiveness Rock Record goes on sale. As for the good looking people? Well, it’s a sold out show in L.A., so it might not be that weird. Before the set, balloons floated above the audience and the room, that is usually one of the easiest to spread out in, looked like a sardine can.
This is one of just a handful of U.S dates the band will play before going to Europe (though they promised to return in the fall) and the band seemed determined to make it count, splitting a pretty even number of new songs with “all the hits”; as Drew kept replying to fan requests. After a strong one-two punch opening of “World Sick” and “Stars and Sons”, Drew dedicated “Texico Bitches” to the Gulf and hammed it up like the rock star he is. I was completely surprised to see the magnetic power Drew possessed. He was completely at ease with the audience, formal enough to refer to us as ladies and gentlemen but still confident enough to make fun of his bandmates to us. It came as no surprise that he is the one that brings these people together, the one that dated Emily Haines and Feist.
The set sounded like classics from another reality. I heard someone in the audience try to explain to his buddy that “Cause=Time” was their biggest hit. Lisa Lopsinger nailed “Anthems for a Seven-Teen Year Old Girl” in spine tingling fashion. A fan smuggled in confetti and Drew by the end of the show talked the audience out the door. Where Drew seemed the true charismatic artist that everyone want to be near, Brendan Canning seemed more like the pretentious coffee shop guy, record store geek, each of his Stevie Nicks leg kicks more silly than the last. We were even treated to a message from Drew to inspire “You know what you have to do, you’ve been moving towards it your whole life.” Like a group baptism, he exonerated our sins.
Broken Social Scene didn’t hold back in finding guest musicians to fill out their sound either, using a local horn section throughout and a personal friend who looked homeless to play the violin. Drew, though, never left the stage during the two hour and 10 minute set, with most of the songs near the end getting lengthy. “Water in Hell” was the only track to make them look old, but Canning needs to sing and god bless the man. Near the end Canning went into delirium while discussing how they don’t make backwards pedals like they used to and we were glad Kevin Drew was drinking non-alcoholic beer so he could keep an eye on his friend.
But how would a night of uplifting rock made by friends wanting to spread the sense of community to a town of strangers really sit with Los Angelinos? About the same as a Cypress Hill show. There were still drunken idiots, a girl complained about how long the last song was on the way to the car and another mourned that they didn’t close with “Lover’s Spit” like they had in San Francisco. Despite a set that went 40 minutes over schedule, that nearly all the favorites were played with as many musicians as they needed, and Brendan Canning could barely stand by the end of the night, Los Angeles can’t help if our heart needs a little more mercy than other people. So, basically, we’ll need to be forgiven again, ASAP. I can’t wait.
Broken Social Scene setlist:
Stars & Sons
Fire Eyed Boy
Forced to Love
Art House Director
All to All
Anthems for a 17 Year Old Girl
Water in Hell
Major Label Debut (Different fast version)
Wheres Your Heart, Wheres Your Mind (Unrealeased song they later apologized for)
Ungrateful Little Father
Meet Me In The Basement
Fucked Up Kid (Sounded Slow and Very Different)
Its All Gonna Break (Very Long)