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Broken Social Scene plays the Commodore in Vancouver on Wed., Oct. 13 (The Globe and Mail)
Broken Social Scene plays the Commodore in Vancouver on Wed., Oct. 13 (The Globe and Mail)

Music: Concert review

Broken Social Scene and the art of the unbearable crescendo Add to ...

Broken Social Scene At the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on Wednesday

"Will you look after me if I crowd surf? Will you take care of me?"

Broken Social Scene front man Kevin Drew didn't so much fling himself into the densely packed crowd at the Commodore on Wednesday night as step gingerly forward and lean into the politely offered throng of waiting arms. It was a strangely still moment - a metaphorical pause in an otherwise slammed two-hour set from the Torontonians.

Kicking off with World Sick, the evening drew heavily from the band's latest album, Forgiveness Rock Record.

Like Drew's tentative stage dive, BSS backed into song after song, beginning with a rambling intro that threatened to dissolve into chaos at any moment. Just as you gave up hope of a melody emerging, everything pulled together to make complete sense.

But the band's real skill is in the almost unbearable crescendos they build, layer by layer: a wall of sound that rises to the point where agony and ecstasy meet, holds fast for an impossible few more beats, before the break finally releases the tension.

Blending ambient psychedelia, catchy rock riffs, soul - and even a bit of 70s disco - Wednesday's set was thrilling and exhausting. The band seemed determined to play as much and as long as the venue would allow. "We can manage a few more, can't we?" Drew and co-founder Brendan Canning asked each other more than once.

Kevin Drew (centre) leads the band through a song at the Commodore in Vancouver on Wednesday night.

Careening from thrusting beats - Art House Director; Texico Bitches - to softer tunes - 7/4 Shoreline; Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl - they never let the momentum slide.

The lineup, in an ever-shifting collective that has boasted Feist and Emily Haines, concentrated on core members: Drew, co-founder Brendan Canning, guitarist Andrew Whiteman, drummer Justin Peroff, vocalist Lisa Lobsinger, trumpet/guitarist Charles Spearin and David French on saxophone. Added into the mix came Whiteman and French's wives - on vocals and sax respectively - as well as John McEntire, producer of Forgiveness Rock Record and member of support band Sea and Cake (as well as Tortoise).

For a big band - and one that can make some serious noise - BSS pulled off their quieter songs beautifully. Drew's renditions of Sweetest Kill, Lover's Spit and Ibi Dreams of Pavement headed towards the sublime.

But there's no denying the rush the pumped-up tunes offer - especially with Whiteman and Canning trying to outdo each other in the swagger stakes. Water in Hell had the room pounding fists in the air but it couldn't top the night's highlight, Meet Me in the Basement. The instrumental track took the BSS crazy crescendo to another level, with Drew refusing to let the song end.

It was Canning who finally found the way out: He dropped his guitar on the floor and jumped up and down on it until it broke.

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