Broken Social Scene fire up The Wiltern

Broken Social Scene Wiltern 2017

Saturday night, Broken Social Scene brought their Hug Of Thunder tour to The Wiltern.

The evening started with openers The Belle Game. The Vancouver band has been a stalwart of that city’s scene for a while but has gone through a transition in the last several years from acoustic folk leaning indie rock to a more electronic crush pop sound. Their set featured tracks from their September release Fear/Nothing, which was produced by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and released by BSS label Arts & Crafts.

Highlights included “Low” and “I Want Nothing” from the latest release, featuring a dense washy backdrop for singer Andrea Lo’s incredible soaring vocals which, at times, reached stratospheric heights, echoing and swirling throughout the cavernous hall.

(Full disclosure, Belle Game once bought me breakfast at Tart and they’ve been a favorite for a while now. Love it when a favorite band opens for another favorite band).

For Broken Social Scene, it’s been a busy 2017. Since the July release of their fifth studio album Hug Of Thunder they’ve been through a whirlwind of publicity, late night TV show appearances, and a month-and-a-half long tour that completed its US run here at the Wiltern.

But there were no signs of fatigue Saturday, more like a well-oiled machine blasting through the anthem-heavy set. Early highlights included the all-time classic “7/4 (Shoreline)” and “Protest Song”, preceded by a timely mention of the state of affairs in the US and how we’re all going to get through it. Then for “Texico Bitches” Kevin Drew jumped into the photo pit to get up close with the audience, admiring the Halloween costumes and noticing one guy who was bleeding for some reason??

In the first part of the set I started to really appreciate how great a singer Ariel Engle is. Filling the spot that’s been held at times by Feist, Emily Haines, and Lisa Lobsinger, in a band full of musical geniuses, must be somewhat daunting. But Engle’s vocals were outstanding and really one of the best parts of the show. “Stay Happy” and “Hug Of Thunder” were especially awesome, with Engle being joined on vocals by Andrea and Katrina from Belle Game.

As the show progressed there was a moving dedication to Gord Downie, the recently deceased frontman of Canadian legends The Tragically Hip, whom BSS saw play at the Wiltern the last time they were there. Shortly after that they played “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” from their 2005 self-titled album. The amount of sound created by the 10+ people on stage was incredible and on this song there were 5 electric guitars going! Sounded so great. And then there was a pause mid-song for everyone in the crowd to scream as loud as they possibly could. Very cathartic.

For the (Thankfully) no-leave encore Drew told a tale of imbibing on shrooms and writing a song with legendary “Sugar Sugar” writer Andy Kim, who then came on stage to perform with the band. Then Engle and the Belle Gamers sang another BSS gem “Anthem For A Seventeen-Year Old”, which was followed by “Lover’s Spit”. Then the encore, and concert, ended with rousing instrumental “Meet Me In The Basement” which had the already energetic audience leaping and jumping and dancing all over the place.

What a show. Any time so many people are in sync in a live performance like that it’s fantastic. Extra props to Andrew Whiteman and Sam Goldberg Jr’s dual-guitar harmonies and the entire brass-section’s tight lines. Let’s hope there’s a “Hug Of Thunder Tour part 2” with a return engagement in LA. “Another Hug Of Thunder”? “Hug Of Thunderer”? I’m sure they’ll figure something out.

Words and photos by Tim Aarons