Crowded Scene at Grant Hall

Feist was “a piece of fire” with Broken Social Scene on Wednesday night at Grant Hall.
Feist was “a piece of fire” with Broken Social Scene on Wednesday night at Grant Hall.
Kevin Drew belted out song after song for a sold-out crowd.
Kevin Drew belted out song after song for a sold-out crowd.

Concert Review: Broken Social Scene @ Grant Hall, Oct. 19

Four years ago, Broken Social Scene was virtually unheard of. After seeing them perform at Grant Hall on Wednesday night, however, I get the feeling this is a band we’ll be reading about in history textbooks and telling our grandchildren about sometime in the distant future.

The Toronto-based collective is at the forefront of the so-called “renaissance of Canadian music.” Along with the many successful bands associated with the group (Stars, Feist, and Apostle of Hustle, to name a handful), Broken Social Scene deserves all the praise they’ve received from media outlets across North America. Although the Arcade Fire is getting a lot of credit for reviving music above the 49th parallel, they’re merely lending a helping hand when compared to the members of Broken Social Scene, who are Canadian indie.

It was fitting, then, that Broken Social would play at Grant Hall—a resurrected concert space with a church-like atmosphere.

Back in March 2003, Broken Social Scene made their first appearance in Kingston at the Merchant, with Stars. Rumour has it that the band shared a joint with the audience. Their second time in K-town will hold a special place in the hearts of those who were lucky enough to attend.

This was the first date of their tour in support of their new self-titled record. As bassist Brendan Canning said, the Grant Hall show was their “gigantic rehearsal” before traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe. I can’t imagine what they would possibly have anything to rehearse, except maybe getting their newest female singer, Lisa Lobsinger, to relax and at least pretend to have a good time.

Joining Broken Social Scene on tour is New Buffalo, the newest addition to the Arts and Crafts roster. This one-woman band impressed the Kingston crowd with her soaring vocals and knack for handling multiple instruments.

New Buffalo, a.k.a. Sally Seltmann, was just signed to the Arts and Crafts label last July and released her first record The Last Beautiful Day in August.

Seltmann seemed nervous initially. Her stage presence was lacking, but developed into a casual elegance after a few songs. For an opening act, the Australian-born singer—songwriter had a good grasp on the audience. Her sound bounced on the wooden interior of the venue, which was nearly impossible to ignore because of the massive space at Grant.

Between New Buffalo and Broken Social Scene’s sets, there was a noticeable unrest and impatience among the audience. The sound of Bloc Party and the Arcade Fire over the PA system just wasn’t enough to keep the crowd entertained. Spontaneous clapping burst out from the audience floor to entice the band to come on stage.

When Broken Social Scene finally emerged, bottles in hand, a warm welcome of applause flooded the hall.

“So tonight we start our tour here, Kingston,” singer Kevin Drew exclaimed, before the band warmed up the audience with two numbers from their new record.

Shortly afterwards, to everyone’s surprise, Feist was introduced onto the stage. The Canadian songstress and member of Broken Social Scene has garnered a following after the release of her second solo record, Let It Die. Her presence on stage was fierce and uncompromising. Even without an instrument (she delighted us with the air guitar), Feist managed to rock out more than some of her fellow musicians.

“So I heard there was a party here during the first week of school ... ” mused Drew after they finished performing “7/4 Shoreline” from their new album. “I heard you rolled a car ... I don’t know if that’s cool,” he said.

Drew dedicated “Fire Eye’d Boy” to the parents’ of the sole audience member who admitted to having been arrested during homecoming, after Drew asked the audience if anyone had been arrested. The track included unison drumming, from a very sweaty John Crossingham and Justin Peroff.

The members of Broken Social Scene reinforced the notion of a Canadian identity—a liberal community of friends enjoying a drink and a good song. It’s just a shame that more people didn’t dance. While Broken Social Scene worked up a sweat, a lot of the audience seemed to just barely bop along to the beat.

There was an attempt at persuasion, however, when Drew asked the audience to dance for him before going into a rendition of “Major Label Debut.” The audience wasn’t truly impressed until Feist came back out for a performance of “Almost Crimes.” Described as “a piece of fire,” Feist once again proved to be a recognizable presence, reminiscent of Patti Smith, minus the gauntness.

“Lover’s Spit,” from the band’s second record, ended the show. With Feist and Drew shared the vocals, making the rendition a mix of the album version and their Beehives EP. After the song ended, Andrew Whiteman remained on stage, plucking notes on his guitar and creating a peculiar ambience of sound.

This didn’t stop until the band returned to the stage for an encore. To the audience’s surprise, Kingston’s own Sarah Harmer, who recently finished recording her third album, I’m A Mountain, joined them.

Harmer easily slipped into her role as honorary Broken Social Scene member. As the collective went into a rendition of “Backyards,” one got the feeling they were part of something meaningful. Harmer, Lobsinger, and Feist chanted the main chorus of the song with an endless persistence that echoed the walls of the venue.

After Harmer performed one of her own songs, the group went into their last number of the evening. “KC Accidental” was an apt song to finish the night—the audience seemed to want to hear more from You Forgot it in People than their latest record—and the prolonged version was still recognizable enough to leave the audience fulfilled.

Although a significant chunk of the audience seemed to be there because they may have heard the name Broken Social Scene bounced around a few times, for hardcore fans interspersed in pockets of dancing bodies in the audience, this was a memorable show.

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