Broken Social Scene @ The Garage, Glasgow, 29 May
Canadian ensemble Broken Social Scene remind us of the importance of coming together through music, retaining as much colour, effortless cool and relevance as ever
Making their return to Glasgow on a suitably warm and beautiful night in May, Canadian ensemble Broken Social Scene take to the stage, at first with a bit of a cloud hanging over their heads. Cutting the music short as they make their way on stage, defacto BSS leader Kevin Drew makes a point of addressing the recent passing of Frightened Rabbit singer and former tour buddy, Scott Hutchison. After making the touching gesture of dedicating the forthcoming set to Scott and everybody else in the FRabbit family, the opening bluster of KC Accidental is lent an added sense of melancholy which can't help but knock the band off its stride a little bit. It takes a little while for the creases to be ironed out in the front of house sound too, so the opening one-two punch – completed by undisputed banger 7/4 Shoreline – feels unusually staggered and clumsy at first.
However, as they begin to warm up, it's a trio of newer songs from the band's 2017 return Hug of Thunder (Protest Song, Halfway Home and Stay Happy) that surprisingly bring things into sharp focus, helped by the incendiary efforts of relative newcomer Ariel Engle. While she has made some appearances in the past – joining her husband, guitarist Andrew Whiteman, on previous tours – Engle has recently become a fully-fledged member of BSS's ever-expanding revolving cast, featuring heavily on Hug of Thunder, and pretty much steals the show tonight at every turn. While BSS mainstays, such as Stars' Amy Millan, Metric's Emily Haines and long-time alum Feist aren't on the roster tonight, you wouldn't notice, as Engle doesn't exactly fill their shoes so much as throw them out and proudly wear her own.
What's crazy is that we're told tonight that she's apparently been having problems with her voice; so bad, in fact, that she was hospitalised the other night and they nearly had to pull the rest of the tour. So, to think that what we're witnessing here is potentially a struggle, just lends her ability even more weight. From owning Haines' swooning Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl and Feist's rip-roaring Almost Crimes to straight up crushing the aforementioned Stay Happy with her 'ticking clock' dance moves, Engle's confidence and talent clearly rubs off on the rest of the group and very quickly they begin to galvanise, turning a relative cold front at the start in to a spectacular burst of summer sun.
Rattling out a hell of a lot of quality cuts from albums past – from You Forgot It in People's Stars and Sons and Cause = Time to the shimmering Texico Bitches and the rousing World Sick from 2010's Forgiveness Rock Record – the band become curators and conductors of pure joy, steering us through an almost-summer soundtrack, eventually erupting into full splendour with a thundering version of Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day) from 2005's self-titled record. Coaxing the crowd to let themselves feel OK, if not better, by releasing a cathartic, emptying group scream right in the middle of its roaring build-up, the band not only sound fantastic by this point in full, brassy brilliance, but they also remind us of the importance and power of coming together through music. Broken Social Scene prove tonight that despite several years away from us, their music retains just as much colour, effortless cool and relevance as it's ever had, and we can only hope they stick around a little longer this time.