After a decade long absence from Irish shores, Broken Social Scene returned to Dublin in glorious form with a truly special show at the Tivoli Theatre last night. The Canadian supergroup were received by a diehard fan base that squeezed into the wonderfully intimate north Dublin venue on Monday night, with proceedings getting underway in the early evening as avant garde country act Honey Harper took to the stage for a short yet intriguing opening set. The band’s mix of a traditional country folk style with more ambient tones makes for an alluring combination, although perhaps it was slept on to a degree by those in attendance. Still, by the end of a six-song set, personable singer William Fossel had won over the audience with his weirdo charm and a grandstand finish to tee up the main act.
In front of a jam-packed theatre raring to go, the band’s current eight-piece line up (accompanied, incredibly, by local busker Isabella who the band encountered playing saxophone in Dublin earlier that day) kicked off with ‘’KC Accidental’’ and ‘’7/4 (Shoreline)’’ as a wave of guitars crashed down upon fans, threatening to burst eardrums and amps within the first ten minutes. The band’s electricity was plain to see as they fed off deafening noise of the arena, with de facto band leader Kevin Drew exclaiming ‘’this feels like a punk rock show’’. Perhaps not quite, but there was a special raw energy throughout the show that built steadily with fan favourite ‘’Texico Bitches’’ making for an early standout as Drew immersed himself in the crowd for a kind of wild singalong that was to become a reoccurring spot of the night.
Even more impressive than the sheer amount of noise the band is able to create is the sense of diplomacy that reigns among the group, as band members seamlessly transition around the stage to take different roles intermittently, with all individuals taking centre stage at one point or another during the two hour long performance. Co-founder and bassist Brendan Manning gets time to shine on lead vocals for ‘’Stars & Sons’’, lead guitarists Sam Goldberg and Andrew Whiteman steal the show on ‘’Cause = Time’’ and ‘’Almost Crimes’’ while multi-instrumentalist Charles Spearin demonstrates a broad range of skill across the stage all night with instruments as diverse as a nyckelharpa introduced into the mix on last year’s single ‘’Halfway Home’’.
The main attraction aside from frontman Drew though is his female co-vocalist Ariel Engle, who is battling through illness after being hospitalized last Friday with laryngitis, yet she still manages to pull off classics such as ‘’Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl’’ with a major assist from the audience in a particularly feel-good moment of the show. The climax of the night comes right at the end as an absolutely explosive ten minute plus ‘’It’s All Gonna Break’’ sends the crowd into a frenzy, before Drew hops into the crowd for hugs and high fives as the band deliver a seemingly impromptu ‘’Lover’s Spit’’, finally capping off with instrumental outro ‘’Meet Me In The Basement’’ in one last attempt to blow the roof off the Tivoli Theatre.
It’s a fitting end to a captivating, barnstorming show and the band seem to realize exactly how special it was as they take their time to leave, with heartfelt thanks to all present while they marvel at a well-earned thunderous ovation. A sense of stunned amazement seems to hang around the audience too as they exit Tivoli on a sustained high, with the kind of post-gig glow that comes only once in a blue moon. Earlier on, Drew mentioned a little regret at having to leave a few songs out of the set for time and Engle’s voice issues, claiming ‘’the only way we can fix that is to come back here and play them another time’’. It’s a promise that Irish fans will hold onto dearly after this evening, but please don’t let it be another ten years. – Andrew Lambert