Broken Social Scene at Williamsburg Waterfront 9/8/11

Last night I had the pleasure of taking in Broken Social Scene and TV on the Radio at the Williamburg Waterfront. Here are some thoughts on the show.

This is a good opportunity to flesh out the ongoing Label Year feature (a feature in which I purchase all the releases of Arts & Crafts in 2011 and post on them, more here), since Broken Social Scene is the flagship band for the label.

Thus, this review is more about them, but briefly, I thought TV on the Radio was quite good. I am not hugely familiar with their music, really just their first album and then some songs from others after, but I was impressed with the energy and scope the songs took on live. They were loud and epic. The band had the advantage of darkness to utilize an impressive light show, and they clearly seemed energized by their hometown crowd. If anything, the sound was so loud that a lot of the nuance and texture got lost in the blasting noise, but overall, I came away thinking I need to spend more time delving into the TV on the Radio discography.

If you didn't guess, Broken Social Scene were the openers for the show, and I have to say that from a logistical perspective, the organization of these Williamsburg Waterfont concerts gives the impression that openers get kind of screwed. The gates open at 5:30, the band came on at 6:30 to a parking lot full of…space. The whole show ended at 9:30, suprisingly early, especially for New York. It probably has a lot do with the nature of the venue, being a city park and also surrounded by brand new high-rise condos. Factor in that a lot of people can't get there early from work and the high cost of attendance from dealing with Ticketmaster, and it really does not make for the most ideal concert-going experience.

But I will see Broken Social Scene anywhere, anytime, and I was mostly happy with their show. Granted, I couldn't help being a little disappointed when they had to end, but that's the nature of being an opening act. Also, the relatively sparse crowd made it a little harder to enjoy the show, when feeding off the crowd's energy is crucial to a band and any individual attendee, though it wasn't for a lack of trying on the part of Broken Social Scene. And just to get all my minor quibbles out of the way, my last time seeing the band set the bar impossibly high: a hometown show, opening for their heroes Pavement but at their own festival so they could play a long set, with many peripheral members involved (including Leslie Feist and Emily Haines, for instance), right after a new record came out. I wrote about that here if you're interested.

So there were some situational aspects stacked against this show, but largely, the greatness of the band and its music and the magic of their live performances – which still included a core of Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Lisa Lobsinger, plus a violinist and maybe 6 horn players – are simply too powerful to not enjoy. Their music has meant so much to me and it is just so great to hear live, in the full-on, exuberant, widescreen version. The 11 song set drew most heavily from You Forgot It In People and included a cover of Modest Mouse's "The World at Large."

It was really great to hear the one-two of "Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for Missionaries" into "Shampoo Suicide." I admit to not knowing how rare or common that is, but those are songs I didn't expect to hear. The drum parts are so great on the former, and I particularly enjoyed the vocal interplay of Kevin Drew, Andrew Whiteman, and Lisa Lobsinger on the latter. From the most recent album, "Texico Bitches" seems to have become a staple. I thought the performances of "7/4 Shoreline" and Andrew Whiteman's turn in the spotlight for "Fire Eye'd Boy" were strong, and I just loved the epic finale trifecta of "Meet Me in the Basement," "KC Accidental," and "Ibi Dreams of Pavement," which was especially awesome with all the horns.

The band seemed to be having a good time throughout the show, evidenced by some high kicks from Brendan Canning and choreographed moves between Whiteman and Charles Spearin. Kevin Drew was constantly grateful to the city of New York for its support of the band over the years and is a truly magnetic frontman. The horn players often had big smiles too. Yet, I have no idea how seriously to take the sentiment of "last show for a long, long time," because they've threatened farewells multiple times in the past, though it really did have a subtext of finality. So let me just say that if for some reason this was my final chance to witness to a band that has had a profound positive impact on my life, I can walk away satisfied. No matter the duration or crowd size or location, a Broken Social Scene show is an event that always makes everything that much better. Because if it's all gonna break, its the moments like these which count most.


  • Cause Equals Time
  • Texico Bitches
  • 7/4 Shoreline
  • Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for Missionaries
  • Shampoo Suicide
  • Stars and Sons
  • Fire Eye'd Boy
  • The World At Large (Modest Mouse)
  • Meet Me in the Basement
  • KC Accidental
  • Ibi Dreams of Pavement


Previously on Label Year: