BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE + BELLE GAME @ THE WILTERN THEATRE
Photos by Leslie Kalohi. Words by Kyle Smith
Fresh off a summertime appearance at Arroyo Seco Weekend in Pasadena, Broken Social Scene hadn’t played a proper headlining show in Los Angeles in about 7 years. The drought – and their US tour – ended Saturday night at the Wiltern in front of an audience keen on revisiting the cacophonous glory of the collective’s first five albums, and to explore newer material from their 2017 full length Hug of Thunder.
The composition of the band, ever fluctuating in terms of its often double-digit participants, appeared more male-heavy this go around. This left certain vocal duties, such as those in “Sweetest Kill,” in the hands of front man Kevin Drew. Surprisingly, only a quarter of the set came from Hug of Thunder, the band making good on its promise at Arroyo Seco to imbue their next LA setlist with a higher ratio of older tracks.
When you do the math, it’s nothing shy of a feat for Broken Social Scene to make sense of its own chaos. In one moment, you have Kevin Drew making his way through the pit to rile up his devotees, or a musical passage decoupaged with scattershot horns. Justin Peroff’s drum fills enriched songs like “Major Label Debut (Fast),” as Brendan Canning stood at the front of the stage with an arsenal of high kicks. Although Canning’s moves failed to inject any tangible musicality, they instead became a visual battle cry, the audience responding in step.
The new songs that did receive attention were well-executed. Although BSS may hail from Canada, they offered their defiant “Protest Song” along with some neighborly encouragement: “We believe you’re gonna get through these times.”
“Halfway Home” replicated its studio trajectory, an intertwining of the wistful and the triumphant, and “Stay Happy” found indie funk groove that only could’ve been better had Leslie Feist walked in off Wilshire Boulevard to sing it herself (as would have the pensive title track that built to a beautiful release fitting of its name).
The set ended with a punky free for all rave up, “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)” replete with audience screams and a four-piece horn section to bring it home.
The band returned to a meaty four-song encore that started with Drew collaborator Andy Kim on Kim’s song, “Sister Ok.” The cover rode a drum swell to a pop explosion that became a segue in to a pair of songs that are now 13 years old.
Taken from 2003 LP You Forgot It In People, “Anthems For a Seventeen Year Old Girl” and its slow roast chant lyrics came from the unlikely intersection of the pastoral and abstract. “Lover’s Spit,” surely a sentimental and romantic favorite, climaxed in care of a swath of horn play.
Finally, the instrumental “Meet Me In The Basement” cracked open with thunderous thumps and then rode sonic joie de vivre in to a reprise peaked twice over – a proper end to Broken Social Scene’s raucous return to our fair city.
The evening was opened by Belle Game
Fire Eye’d Boy
Stars and Sons
Hug of Thunder
Major Label Debut (Fast)
Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)
Sister Ok (Andy Kim cover; with Andy Kim)
Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl
Meet Me in the Basement