Broken Social Scene at Foellinger, Oct. 19

Though the auditorium was far from packed, Broken Social Scene never allowed its sound to come short of filling the entire room. Equally exuberant and laid-back, the group thrilled the audience with well-played selections from their full-lengths as well as some excerpts from side projects and solo albums.
Calling Broken Social Scene a band, though, would clearly be a misnomer. More akin to a collective or a supergroup, it was conceived by musicians Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew almost a decade ago. The two are supported by a revolving section of musicians (Feist, Amy Millan of Stars) that contribute to an ever-changing sound that always sticks to the heuristics of being large and noisy.
Because those artists cannot always tour with the group, the danger is that the original material can be hard to translate well to the live stage. Drew acknowledged it when he turned down a request to play “Swimmers,” a song too defined by Emily Haines’ (Metric) singing to be played without her. To their benefit, though, the musicians never sounded like a cover band.
Both of those characteristics were on full view on Sunday night. “Looks Just Like the Sun,” perhaps the group’s simplest song, was expanded with a twinkling synthesizer line and thrusting drums. “7/4 (Shoreline)” created vast momentum with its intertwining riffs and clever vocal play (between Drew and Feist stand-in Elizabeth Powell from the opener, Land of Talk). That energy carried through the vociferous and determined crowd.
The band was also not averse to letting the members other than Drew or Canning play their own music. Some of it was quite ham-handed; a bit with a saxophone playing over a vocal recording only seemed to rile the crowd as it preceded the encore and “Stars and Sons.”
However, the benefit of a loose band, as Broken Social Scene demonstrated, was that the songs never seem forced or rushed. Lead guitar lines alternated, lending each song a strong originality. Drew and Canning also gave each other freedom to direct their own songs while appearing as opposites onstage. Canning was friendly with the audience (and frequently mentioned a love of tequila), while Drew took time to warm up, getting much more gregarious as the night went on.
“Major Label Debut,” which finished the set before the encore, showed what the band can do best. A song satirizing the rock star life, it pulled toward the noisy rock of My Bloody Valentine while retaining a strong melody. It revealed how the group’s disparate songs and styles represent indie rock today: messy, ironic, strange and always searching for meaning.

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