Not knowing much about a band before going to a live performance can be a bit of a gamble. For some artists, the music may not be accessible to someone who has not had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the band, its genre of music, or their showmanship. Other times it can be a special treat. To go in “cold” to a show, with no expectations, sets the risk for a letdown to be low while allowing the concertgoer to truly enjoy oneself and ideally, become a new fan.
That was just this writer’s experience as Broken Social Scene rocked out at Tipitina’s Uptown in New Orleans. Following a Monday Valentine’s day, this Tuesday night was no indication of a mellow evening as a sold-out crowd was packed to the brim awaiting Broken Social Scene, a rock group from Canada that, as an indie group, elusively has no true or nailed down identity. This was their first trip to the big easy since playing Voodoo Music Festival back in autumn, and they showed the same enthusiasm as if it was their debut New Orleans performance.
Broken Social Scene has gotten much acclaim through their albums, hit songs, scores and themes to films as well as their respective side projects within the groups members. They are frequently featured as main acts in many festivals around the country as well as being an active touring band. The concert started with a high-energy performance and continued to deliver to the devout fans as people could not stop showing their affection towards this rock group. Unlike many other concerts, where the audience is either too cool or unaware to let loose and enjoy themselves, it was comforting to be a part of a crowd where everyone was engaged with the bands level of sincerity and genuine energy.
It was easy to tell that the men (and woman) on stage have been doing this for a long time and are still comfortable with having fun while performing by gauging a relationship with the screaming crowd. When on a national tour, concerts have the ability to become merely just a gig or another day job, rather than a special performance that people have been waiting for. This was not the case, as the band introduced themselves, from the start, as being in one of their favorite cities. For those who have been to New Orleans understand that when you play here, it is always special.
Broken Social Scene is an interesting band in that they act like a traditional band, they have a collection of well manicured and complex yet melodic songs, yet the composition of their act is always a mystery. To clarify, it was difficult to figure out exactly who played what instrument for which song as the members were constantly switching instruments. This does not mean they switched guitars during different songs for a more fitting sound but rather they switched instruments and roles with each other. At one point, there were two basses and four guitars on stage just to be followed by a song that featured a horn section. The bass player who was laying down a nice groove was then singing lead on the following song.
In fact, the members of Broken Social scene is ever changing and has boasted at one point having nearly twenty members of the groups as opposed to the roughly seven that performed at Tipitina’s. Out of nowhere we could sometimes see trumpets, saxophones, synthesizers, and of coarse the armada of electric guitars and basses shared between the members while the driving force of the sole drummer was able to contain all this orchestrated madness.
This sounds like a recipe for disaster; almost as if a bunch of friends were just playing around in their garage, eager to try all the neat toys. When do you see an act with five guitars all playing in unison where you do not want to quickly grab some earplugs? But, Broken Social Scene made it look and sound professionally seamless throughout the balanced set they delivered.
Always in control, the band had a perfect blend of rocking ballads, to sing-alongs, a few oldies for the devout fans, and some really intricate material that played as a conversation between the members and the audience. From a technical perspective, it is difficult to compose a piece when you have multiple voices of the same instrument interplaying with one another. For example, it is much easier to find a part for a saxophone when there are already two guitar riffs while it can be more complicated to find a role for a guitar when there are four others playing simultaneously. Broken Social Scene not only accomplished this feat, but they made it look simple, as if they casually create these impressive soundscapes.
To have such a unique performance translate in a city based around music is a wonderful feat. If you are looking for a band that will keep you guessing, interested, and make you feel sometimes like screaming and other times just sitting down and enjoying time pass by, check out Broken Social Scene and just make sure to be attentive, because they will keep you on your toes the whole time.
Written by Danny Goodman