Music note: Broken Social Scene take liberties at First Ave


Canadian indie rockers Broken Social Scene were supposed to play a free in-store set at the Electric Fetus on Monday evening, a teaser for their First Avenue show later that night. Unfortunately, no one told the band. When BSS were finally notified, they were only able to make it an hour late—and without their instruments. Band co-founder Kevin Drew was extremely apologetic to those who had waited, and gamely led the crowd in a question and answer session rather than a live set (though towards the end he and Charles Spearin did sing a few brief a capella requests).

Luckily, the disaster was not a foreshadowing of the night to come: when Broken Social Scene finally took the First Avenue stage, they were exactly on time and their instruments were ready to go. They led the Minneapolis crowd through a series of their spirited songs, at times playing as many as five guitars simultaneously onstage (while BSS is only touring with six members, they occasionally borrowed members of opening act Land of Talk for extra support). Known as indie rock’s version of a jam band collective, BSS regularly took freewheeling liberties into guitar, horn, and keyboard freakouts. While this occasionally added new elements (as well as a few minutes) to each song, the band were restrained enough to know when enough noodling was enough.

While BSS are probably best known for launching the careers of some of the most successful Canadian female vocalists (Leslie Feist, Emily Haines of Metric, and Amy Millan of Stars), unfortunately those artists are now preoccupied with their own projects and no longer tour with the band. It fell to Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell to bring a feminine touch to a stage filled with men, and she was up to the challenge. The feisty young singer went toe-to-toe with the established rockers, adding a little vocal sugar as well as some mean guitar licks.

At the Electric Fetus, Drew had noted that touring with Powell has brought back some “fun” into the band, making it less about “doing a job” and more like the free-spirited Broken Social Scene of old. The energized band were obviously having a lot of fun on Monday night, and they proved that even after losing some of their star power, they still remain one of North America’s premier touring acts.

Jon Behm is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.