Broken Social Scene Celebrate 20th Anniversary of ‘You Forgot It in People’ with Grandiose Indie Rock Performance in Portland, OR (SHOW REVIEW)

Twenty years ago, Toronto was home to one of the coolest indie rock scenes on the planet. The acts that came out of this scene generally skewed towards rock with sharp underpinnings of pop and an underlying sense of cool. The hippest of these acts and quite possibly the nucleus was the collective known as Broken Social Scene, which featured a who’s who of Toronto talent. With a membership that often stretched past ten, they formed something of an indie rock orchestra that came into full focus on their 2002 album You Forgot It in People. The award-winning album balanced impossibly hip and obscurely humorous lyricism with layered instrumentals and poignant vocals. It also included many of what became Broken Social Scene’s best-known songs, and now they are on tour celebrating its 20th anniversary. On Tuesday, September 27th, the latest incarnation of the band brought that celebration to Portland, Oregon for the second of two shows at the Wonder Ballroom.

Between the pandemic and inflation, the reality of touring is not good these days. But the members of Broken Social Scene seemed undeterred as they took the stage and wasted no time getting down to business on “KC Accidental,” with Andrew Whiteman whizzing away on the lead guitar as he would do throughout the performance. The band would unleash the kind of multi-guitar barrage one might expect from a heavy metal band throughout the show, with four members donning them during the percolating “Stars and Sons.” Vocalist Ariel Engle would appear during “Almost Crimes” and engage in the kind of vocal interplay with Kevin Drew that is a hallmark of the BSS sound while the rest of the band built up a wall of frenetic indie rock and a blissed-out solo from Whiteman. They slowed down the tempo for the bouncy and moody “Looks Just Like the Sun” and the breezy cool of “Pacific Theme” that found band members swapping instruments, layering in gorgeous trombone lines and adding to the overall sonic charm emanating from the stage. “Cause=Time” ramped up the energy once again as the crowd sang along and every guitarist soared with jubilant shredding.

While they did stick to songs from You Forgot It in People for much of the set, the band occasionally interrupted the flow to share something else. Longtime BSS favorites “7/4 (Shoreline)” and “Fire Eye’d Boy” off their 2005 self-titled album went over well, with the latter showcasing ascendant guitars, rich harmonies, and some of the most complexly danceable drumming of the night. They would get back to their original mission with a version of “I’m Still Your Fag” that was quiet and emotional with pretty bass and subtle trombone dancing around Drew’s vocals. Other highlights included the sensual and vibey of “Sweetest Kill” complete with sexy background harmonies, the pure pop sweetness of “Hug of Thunder,” and Kevin Drew giving “Lover’s Spit” a dreamy and intimate keyboard intro while cutting through the seriousness of the song to joke about the lyrics.

“We haven’t played this song in four years,” said Kevin Drew before “Halfway Home.” To bring the show to a heartwarming and emotional finale, the band members lined up to play the song’s swelling, orchestral rock that felt like a wave of excitement. They would up the ante by taking “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-old Girl” and layering it with tambourine and a big brass band meets psych rock sound. Charles Spearin would bring it all to a dramatic pause when he read a poem to the audience before inviting the crowd to scream in unison as the band brought it all to a grandiose conclusion. The musicianship and positivity on display throughout the night radiated out to the audience, taking them back through twenty years while reminding them that Broken Social Scene remains a vital indie rock presence.

Broken Social Scene Setlist Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR, USA 2022, You Forgot It In People 20th Anniversary

 

 

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