Broken Social Scene keeps it together

By Kelsey Shea

Walking into Wednesday night’s Broken Social Scene concert, I thought I knew what to expect. I… Walking into Wednesday night’s Broken Social Scene concert, I thought I knew what to expect. I was never that into the Toronto supergroup, but I knew it was “hip” and “indie.” So when a gaggle of skinny, disheveled white musicians  in tight pants wandered onto the stage, I wasn’t too surprised. What did surprise me was how much I enjoyed the show.

I was enthralled by the nine-piece coalition of indie rock all-stars. The touring group consisted of Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff, Andrew Whiteman, Charles Spearin, David French, Sam Goldberg, Lisa Lobsinger and John McEntire.

As a whole, the band was energetic, charismatic and wholly engaged with the audience. And despite the fact that members were unshaven and openly admitted to wearing the same clothes as the day before — and possibly even the day before that — they seemed genuinely excited to be in Pittsburgh and graciously thanked the audience for coming out to see them.

There was a healthy prevalence of old songs, but in my opinion the new material stood out as the best. The stage had a cool light set, and there was always someone running around switching out guitars and other instruments.

Throughout the show, Feist stand-in Lisa Lobsinger of Reverie Sound Revue seemed weirdly uncomfortable on stage, but when she sang, it didn’t even matter. In fact, she gave two of the best performances of the concert, including the ultimate highlight “All to All,” during which her voice sounded positively ethereal. She was so outstanding that for the makeshift encore, the audience requested the female-fronted “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl.” I think I actually prefer Lobsinger to Feist.

Another cool surprise was the opening band, The Wooden Birds. Like Broken Social Scene, The Wooden Birds is a supergroup, composed of members from other bands. Toward the end of its act, for example, when the group played The American Analog Set’s “Aaron and Maria,” I realized the lead singer, Andrew Kenny, was also the frontman for American Analog.

Overall, it was a great show, though the Byham Theater as a concert venue leaves the audience at a loss, as listeners can’t quite figure out whether to be refined culture snobs or just kids at a rock concert. It’s difficult to feel “rock ’n’ roll” under knock-off Renaissance paintings and miniature statues of Poseidon.

About a third of the audience dressed up for the show — some of them in collared shirts and ties — whereas the crew in front of me was wearing cargo shorts and tie-dye T-shirts. The majority of the fans fell somewhere in the middle.

Another Byham-induced dilemma was whether to sit or stand, and throughout the show, the audience never reached a comfortable consensus. The people at the sides and back of the orchestra were on their feet, while almost everyone in the upper level and center aisles remained seated.

It was a weird dynamic, but the members of Broken Social Scene made it work. And with such a diverse crowd, it’s a good thing they did.