October 16, 2022

Broken Social Scene played You Forgot It In People at Webster Hall (Night 1)

Twenty years to the day after releasing You Forgot It In People, Broken Social Scene played the album and a slew of other hits at Webster Hall.

There are times when Broken Social Scene, the beloved Canadian rock unit, can feel like more than a band. Over the years, they've been a collective of some of the best indie rock musicians from a thriving scene centered around Toronto and while they've retained the core duo of Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning throughout, those who join along always seem to remain contributors even if they're not regular members. For over two decades, the group has delivered a stunning collection of studio albums, all of which could be considered the best releases of their respective years, and helped define the genre of indie rock at the turn of the millennium and spark an online scene to help influence the style of music to come for a new generation. That all started with their 2002 landmark opus. After the ambient and post-rock nature that made up their splendid debut, the band shifted gears towards more melodic and anthemic tracks that still dabbled in the tension building dynamic they'ed explored previously and matched it with rousing choruses that could hit just when the melody would explode. Of course there were the emotional ballads as well that would go on to soundtrack thousands of mix tapes and it was the way all of these tracks fit together that made them seem like such visionaries. Still in its own infancy, Pithfork's stunning review of the record did help propel its success in the indie community and Kevin made sure to thank them for helping them become what they are today and shouted-out Ryan Dombal and Ryan Schreiber who were in attendance. Taking the complex rhythms of Chicago instrumental bands like Tortoise and mixing it with the forceful delicacy of Explosions in the Sky, Broken Social Scene found a groove that struck with an audience looking for something new. The night started off with "KC Accidental," immediately tugging at the heart strings of the crowd, each moment somehow seeming to bring newfound joy as the song unfolded with its gorgeous rhythm. The flow was majestic and the transitions to "Stars and Sons" was fantastic, the mix of floaty spaced-out rock with grounded indie-folk was absolutely transfixing. "Looks Just Like The Sun" was a tender moment and then the band kicked in to "Cause = Time." It was an absolutely rousing rendition that saw the biggest response of the night until that moment, but made it click that this show was actually going to be a little different. Unlike Wilco's twenty year celebrations for their masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in which the band played everything exactly to the note, Broken Social Scene decided to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of, arguably, their masterpiece a little bit differently. Guitar solos were ripping and jams were soaring as the band took liberties to really bring home the triumph and energy that these songs can create and didn't regulate anything to the studio versions we've all spent years memorizing at home. Really hitting hard on their collective nature, there were times when there were ten musicians on stage absolutely grooving with such purpose, the collaborative effort coming through with profound levels of trust and talent. "We've veered off the album a bit" Drew said after the remarkable one-two punch of "7/4 (Shoreline)" and "Fire Eye'd Boy," both of which took the crowd by surprise but obviously saw no complaints as each number maintained the emotional weight of the new and gave a delightful twist to the evening. "I saw Alanis play Jagged Little Pill over the summer and she didn't do it straight through. So I thought to myself when we were getting ready for this one, 'always do what Alanis does.'" The run of songs felt euphoric and prepared the crowd that now anything could be possible for the remainder of the night. Of course the band made sure to hit back on the album they were there to play and "Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for The Missionaries" and "Shampoo Suicide" were more glowing gems that sparkled in a live setting. "I'm going to tell a story about this next song" Kevin said as the band took a momentary pause. "It was written twenty years ago and we were different people then with different understandings. We're here to celebrate everyone and support everyone for who they are and who they want to be. We're not here to put anyone down. This song is a true story and it's a love story, but if you don't want us to play, we won't. This song is called 'I am Still Your Fag' and we can skip it tonight if it bothers everyone. But if you want us to play it, we will." The crowd gave an affirming cheer and the band did play it, owning up to their past mistakes and recognizing their error, but still playing their art. A bold and difficult move that I believe they pulled off with grace. As the band cleared the stage, Kevin Drew took to the back keys and slowly began to play the stirring, sentimental "Lover's Spit." Alone on stage, the crowd acted as his duet partner as we made his way through the gentle track. As his bandmates reappeared, almost like magic, on stage, the track swelled and once again hit hard on the emotional intensity of the album. "We've been bringing this one out the past week" Drew said as he ripped the chords to "It's All Gonna Break," "but we have lots of songs," he continued, "so we can play something else." The crowd retorted with a resounding cheer and the band lept into the epic number in all its sprawling glory. An absolutely spellbinding moment full of unfiltered bliss and soul replenishing joy. An incendiary moment of towering passion that resulted in all three guitarists and bass player raising their instruments in the air like a final salute and triumphant horns carried things to the finish in a blaze of glory. The band planned to end things with the cathartic and timeless "Anthems of a Seventeen Year-Old Girl," another song that soundtracked a real moment in time and hit an emotional peak unlike any other point of the show. As the song hit its build and the repeated chorus felt infinite, the magic of the band and the meaning their music holds felt truer than ever. "Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)" was the unexpected closer for the night when the band learned they still had seven minutes before the sound would be cut and they gave it their all for one last eruption of the supercharged anthems only they can deliver. Twenty years later and these songs still mean a great deal to a group of people who heard them at the right time and made a connection that would last a lifetime. A true sign of a remarkable album and a landmark of the times. The night felt like a jubilant celebration, not only for those in the crowd who were living vibrantly in the moment, but for the people on stage as well. After all this time, nothing was in-fact forgotten in the people and the love for these songs seems as powerful and as strong as well. And we still like them for that.

Set list:

01 "KC Accidental"
02 "Stars and Sons"
03 "Almost Crimes"
04 "Looks Just Like the Sun"
05 "Pacific Theme"
06 "Cause = Time"
07 "7/4 (Shoreline)"
08 "Fire Eye'd Boy"
09 "Stay Happy"
10 "Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries"
11 "Shampoo Suicide"
12 "I'm Still Your Fag"
13 "Sweetest Kill"
14 "Lover's Spit"
15 "It's All Gonna Break"
16 "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl"
17 "Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)"

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