Indie rock collective Broken Social Scene rarely make it down to New Orleans, but every time they visit they deliver a life-affirming performance that makes them seem right at home. Last Wednesday’s show at The Joy Theater did not disappoint as the band tore through classic songs and cuts from their excellent 2017 LP Hug of Thunder to a crowd of hardcore fans and newcomers alike. The trek down from their native Canada was no short trip for the band, and the crowd made sure to welcome them with open arms to our fair city.
Led by songwriter Kevin Drew, Broken Social Scene has been playing together for the past eighteen years with a rotating cast of veterans of Toronto’s indie rock scene. The camaraderie onstage was clear from the moment the band walked out as they traded smiles and the kind of instinctive musical chemistry that only comes from close friends making beautiful noise together. And boy did they make some noise.
Prior to the main event, The Belle Game did a fine job warming up the crowd with their dreamy electro-pop. The quartet was touring in support of last year’s Fear/Nothing and worked their way through a set that showcased their upbeat, danceable tracks anchored by front woman Andrea Lo’s impressive vocals. While the four could have been easily dwarfed by the huge Joy stage, they managed to hold their own with little effort. Their modesty and love for the city were apparent as Lo took every moment she could to praise the city.
Broken Social Scene blasted out of the gate with the time-shifting “KC Accidental” followed by the slinky groove of “7/4 (Shoreline),” which gave way to a glorious horn outro featuring a local trombone player the band picked up at Spotted Cat earlier that day. Drew introduced fan favorite “Texaco Bitches” by showing appreciation to the U.S. and assuring us we would get through this tough time we’re currently dealing with before leaping into the crowd to shake hands, give shout outs to folks in the front row, and instill a general sense of joy and positivity.
While Drew is the de facto leader of the group, the ten-piece band radiated a communal energy as they seamlessly traded instruments between songs and handed off vocal duties throughout the show. Ariel Engle, of Montreal band AroarA, led the band on the anthemic “Protest Song” and harmonized beautifully with Drew on the tender “Sweetest Kill” before premiering her own song “Every Woman” for the very first time. Engle seemed a bit nervous to play the song for an audience, but the supportive cheers from the crowd and her bandmates had her commanding the stage in no time.
A rare broken bass string provided some time for stage banter that was neither awkward nor eye-roll inducing – while a guitar tech frantically fixed the busted bass, the band recounted their day in the city that somehow ended in a request to visit a chihuahua rescue. The band jumped right back in with the raucous “Halfway Home” that once again featured some perfectly timed horn blasts and no shortage of interlocking guitar solos.
The band continued to unleash song after song of rapturous indie rock for almost two hours as the energy in The Joy infected even the most jaded arm-crossers in the crowd. Although Broken Social Scene doesn’t often grace us with their presence, when they do it’s a beautiful sight to behold and experience. When you’re lucky enough to do what you love with your best friends for almost two decades, sharing that gift with the world is the least you can do.
Cause = Time
Hug of Thunder
Fire Eye’d Boy
Major Label Debut
Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)
Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl
Meet Me in the Basement