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Back on the road, Broken Social Scene rock The Fox with a career-spanning set

Broken Social ScenePhotos by Norm de Veyra // Written by Brett Ruffenach //

Broken Social Scene with The Belle Game //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
October 26th, 2017 //

To cap off a stellar “Rocktober” season in the Bay Area, one of the true titans of early-aughts indie rock brought their All-Star lineup of musicians to the Fox Theater Oakland as Toronto’s Broken Social Scene headlined with support from The Belle Game.

With the venue beginning to fill up, The Belle Game arrived onstage. Their music combines rock-band sensibilities with a dreamy, ethereal pop sound to create a powerful effect. It was quite clear that Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear and other heavy hitters from the mid-2000’s were a major influence on their sound.

A five-piece act hailing from Vancouver, The Belle Game’s greatest asset — the stunning vocal range of lead singer Andrea Lo — became clear from their rendition of “Spirit”, the lead single off their sophomore LP Fear/Nothing. Through soaring synths and reverb-heavy guitar effects, they certainly garnered a few new fans in Oakland this time around.

Broken Social Scene

After a short break, Broken Social Scene took the stage as an eight-piece band backed by a six-piece horns section. They kicked things off with the thumping and fast-paced “KC Accidental” from 2002’s You Forgot It in People, which quickly demonstrated the roles of all four guitarists onstage and the unstoppable power of drummer Justin Peroff.

Racing through the first three tunes of what would be a career-spanning, 20-song set, BSS eventually revealed what the rush was all about — the horn section joining them featured members of the Brooklyn-based afrobeat band Antibalas, and they had a gig to play just a block away at The New Parish later that night. Nevertheless, it was a special way to get the show started.

In my head, I counted 22 different people taking stage at one point or another. It was one of those shows where the crowd roared in excitement at the opening notes of each song, from older tracks like “Fire Eye’d Boy” on their 2005 self-titled LP to newer material off their 2017 studio effort Hug of Thunder, including a booming version of “Halfway Home”.

Broken Social Scene

At The Fox, BSS’ newest female vocalist, Ariel Engle, was able to confidently fill the shoes of her predecessors Emily Haines and Leslie Feist. For “Stay Happy”, the first track demanding two female vocalists, The Belle Game’s own Andrea Lo joined Engle onstage. This song was a personal highlight of the set for me; not only is it one of BSS’ best cuts off of Hug of Thunder, but they cleverly turned the glitchy, staccato guitar lick into a cool saxophone melody.

As the night went on, Lo joined Engle onstage once again to sing one of the Canadian outfit’s most famous songs: “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl”. But instead of using the studio version’s heavy vocal distortion, Lo and Engle sang, perfectly in sync, contrasting harmonies that produced a repetitive, swelling effect. It was truly a breathtaking moment to witness.

BSS were certainly feeling the love, too. After closing their set with “It’s All Gonna Break”, they returned for an encore, informing us that they had time for only one more song.

Broken Social Scene

But in an attempt to decide whether to play “Lover’s Spit” or “Cause = Time” by the crowd’s applause, BSS founding member and bandleader Brendan Canning said that they were just going to have to do both. I initially took this as an (admittedly successful) attempt to rile up the crowd, but after later seeing a picture of the setlist, it looked like the band chose to play an additional three songs due to the energy in the room.

Here’s the thing about BSS — after 15 years, the web of musicians that makes up the collective have created their own individual projects, from Metric to Stars to Feist to Do Make Say Think to Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. And while many of the band’s members who have gone on to find success in their own solo careers didn’t happen to join the group on this particular tour, the sense of professionalism built into the BSS live experience remains prevalent. Every person who stepped onstage demonstrated consummate abilities in their own realms, never missing a beat or a note.

Fortunately for those who didn’t make it to this incredible show, word on the street is they’ll be heading back to The Fox early next year for Noise Pop 2018.

Setlist:
KC Accidental
7/4 (Shoreline)
Halfway Home
Protest Song
Fire Eye’d Boy
Texico Bitches
Stars and Sons
World Sick
Stay Happy
Hug of Thunder
Sweetest Kill
Skyline
Almost Crimes
Major Label Debut (Fast)
Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)
Looks Just Like the Sun
Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl
It’s All Gonna Break

Encore:
Lover’s Spit
Play Video
Cause = Time

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