Gig Review: Broken Social Scene, Manchester Academy 2, 14th February 2006

Broken Social SceneBefore this gig I was having real problems with Broken Social Scene’s latest, self-titled, album. It’s a long, difficult listen; an unwieldly mess; killer indie rock tunes fighting desparately to smash through walls of studio trickery and overdubs. And failing, or so it would seem. Maybe I’m listening to it wrong; I read somewhere that you need to sit in a darkened room with a decent hi-fi and good headphones to get the most out of it, something I’ve yet to try. Such was my disillusionment, I was expecting to spend stretches of this gig a tad bored. Just my luck then that Broken Social Scene happen to be the most brilliant live band I’ve seen since The Arcade Fire last year.

The gig had been upgraded from the Hop And Grape. Quite how they would have fitted everyone on stage at the Hop & Grape I don’t know. I counted nine people on stage, though there could well have been more as the speaker stacks blocked much of my view of the right hand side of the stage. Feist was not there, nor Amy Millan from Stars, but it didn’t matter as Lisa Lobsinger assumed female vocal duties and did a fine job.

They kicked off with the unreleased gem “Jimmy & The Photocall” followed by an exceptional take of “KC Accidental”, its main riff enhanced by Julie Penner’s virtuso turn on violin. It was already shaping up to be a great gig but as they progressed through the likes of “7/4 Shoreline”, “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement”, “Stars And Sons” and a stunning “Cause=Time” it was clear that we were witnessing something very special. Best of all were the two versions of “Major Label Debut”, both infinitely better than the distant, detatched album version; the first sending tingles down the spine as Kevin Drew and Lisa Lobsinger’s vocals swooned through the chorus; the second version, played a few songs later, the faster, rockier version from the “To Be You And Me” EP.

“Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” was never going to top the perfect studio version but was a delight all the same, while tracks from Broken Social Scene that had previously confounded me played out like the pop classics that they actually are, the studio trickery making way for good, honest guitars and violins and synths and trumpets and drums. The band sounded fantastic, aided by their sound engineer on mixing duties, and the sight of nine people on stage all locked into the same groove, all hell-bent on giving the gathered audience much more than they could have hoped for, was truly thrilling. At the heart of it all was chief Scenester Kevin Drew who continually cajoled his troops to greater and greater heights while providing some amusing between-song banter along with bass player Brendan Canning.

They played for over two hours in all and even the break before the encore was filled with a solo number from The Apostle Of Hustle, Andrew Whiteman. The encore began with the awesome “Lovers Spit” which was followed an epic fifteen minute version of “It’s All Gonna Break” to wind up proceedings. I honestly never thought that Broken Social Scene could be this good. Now I’m look forward to re-evaluating the album, in a darkened room, with headphones.

7 Responses to “Gig Review: Broken Social Scene, Manchester Academy 2, 14th February 2006”

  • James Morton Says:

    Hey. I went to the same gig and I totally agree. One of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. I’ve also posted a review over at my blog, if you want to take a look.

    I also went to the CYHSY gig and thought it was a marked improvement on the Music Box gig from last year, especially when it came to their stage presence. They’re pretty nice guys though, despite the flaws and the level of hype is hardly their fault. I posted a review on that too.

    Nice site you have here, by the way.


  • The Ledge Says:

    Thanks for the input, James. I would have left a comment on your site if I didn’t have to register with MSN to do so. Anyway, nice blog. Don’t know how you get the time to do all that writing. And thanks for posting Jimmy & The Photocall, it’s already a classic.

  • Julio Says:

    Hi, nice review. I’ve seen BSC a couple of times and you’re right: they really shine as a live band. But I’m sorry for you, I guess there’s no way with the new album. In fact, IMHO “You forgot it in people” is their only good record. Anyway, if you finally get to fully enjoy last album, please, explain how to achieve it 😉

  • Dan Says:

    It looks like we’ve been in the same place quite a few times recently, I was at the Boy Least Likely To gig (and bought the BC Camplight album which turned out to be a gem in itself), Clap your Hands Say Yeah! and Broken Social Scene. BSS was by far the best, their performance and the atmosphere was amazing. Easily the best gig I’ve been to, it beats 4th row at Arcade Fire at Leeds Festival last year, and that was unforgtettable itself.
    I have to disagree on the self titled album, to me it shines above the others, I’ve owned You Forgot it in People and Feel Good Lost for years and the self titled jumped at me, but I’dve gone to see them in a second even if they hadn’t released it, they were my second dream band to see live (Neutral Milk Hotel being first – not gonna happen) but I may be biased, after all I got a hug from Kevin Drew.
    About how to listen to it, they may be right. Laying back and closing your eyes whilst listening to it with nothing else is by far the best way.
    Very nice site too, I stumbled across it trying to hunt down KC Accidental’s first album. That thing is impossible to find, I’ll definitely be back here.

  • The Ledge Says:

    Cheers, Dan. Hopefully we’ll be seeing BC Camplight tonight in Liverpool as they (he?) are supporting Calla at the Academy. A review will be posted soon after. To make you very jealous, I saw NMH two nights running supporting Sparklehorse in Manchester and Leeds in 1998. I’d never heard of them before but they were amazing; I don’t think a band has ever made a better first impression on me after seeing them live. Not had a chance to give the BSS album a “proper” listen yet, but I will.

  • The Indie Credential » Blog Archive » The Ledge’s Top 10 Gigs of 2006 Says:

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