The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Broken Social Scene (live in Vicar Street)

Review Snapshot: Broken Social Scene played a long set at over two hours - the result was euphoric and full, but there was a bit of a lull for a couple of tracks. There was also the issue of the small man in front of me, whose Guinness farts threatened to ruin the overall sensory experience. 

The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

Full Review:
Broken Social SceneI'm 5'4". At some venues I end up standing tiptoed to get a glimpse of a head-banging blurred face onstage. The result? Painful soles and a poor visual experience. At Vicar Street though, no matter where a 5'4" girl stands, she still manages to be able to see everyone on stage. The Broken Social Scene gig was my second at Vicar St. and the venue is proving to be kind on the ears and eyes - I had a perfect view of the full band.

The night began with Charles Spearin’s Happiness Project - a quirky, fun introduction to Broken Social Scene. Charles played interviews that he had recorded with his neighbours, focussing first on the tones of the voices played back unaccompanied. After he played a section of an interview, the saxophone would mimic the notes of the voices - the idea then escalated into a guitar, voice and sax loop that became melodic and turned into something that really made me aware of the tones we use while speaking. Charles' experiment with sound was especially moving when he created a piece using the voice of a deaf woman who'd had a microchip inserted into her brain so that she could finally speak and hear through vibrations in her body: 'All of a sudden I felt my body moving the sound.'

When Broken Social Scene came on (Charles included), Kevin Drew opened to a packed crowd, telling us we were 'such a lovely fuckin' audience!'  He kept up the positive audience affirmations all night, and said that Dublin was his favourite place to play. The gig kicked off on a chilled out, downtempo vibe. What I love about Broken Social Scene's live performance is the concentration involved in playing - there's not much jumping around onstage - they have the airs and graces of an orchestra, particularly the brass. The musicality of the group as a team comes across; instrument switching happens frequently, effortlessly and adds to the performance.

One of the highlights of the gig was the second track, '7/4 (Shoreline).' You really got the full, all-encomapassing sound of the band, who played it with verve and high energy. Amy Millan's vocals were a bit quiet, but she shook her hair around and gave as much as the rest of them. For any fans of Broken Social Scene Presents...Kevin Drew, the group played several tracks from the 'Spirit If...' album, including the explosive, tingly 'Farewell to the Pressure Kids.'

Kevin Drew also played a couple of new songs, like 'Churches under the Stairs' - you could tell he was in jovial form, and well up for getting the audience involved. We were encouraged to scream, clap and sing. The whole performance felt natural, yet you could tell that it was the result of lots of practise. Broken Social Scene prove that image doesn't mean much when it comes to real music and making an impact on an audience.

One of the highlights was Kevin's solo version of 'Lover's Spit.' We were asked to hush while Kevin sang with just his keyboard as accompaniment. Towards the end, he laughed as his voice started to fade - and got nothing but praise from the audience. 'Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl' with Amy's soft singing blew us away - it was at that stage unfortunately that the man in front of me began letting the unique smell of methane waft from his butt towards my face. Not pleasant of course, but I can hardly take points away from the band for that.

The length of the set meant that at times there was a slight lull or lack; it's not something I can describe accurately, but the momentum seemed to fade at times. The finale picked up the pace again though with the striking brass on 'It's All Gonna Break' - a triumphant ending to a great night out with Kevin and the Scene.

Niamh Madden

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2000 - 'Rock Criticism: Getting it Right', written by Mark Godfrey. A thought provoking reflection on the art of rock criticism.