An hour was way too short of a set time for Broken Social Scene to hit their stride at Ottawa CityFolk Festival. Coming off a tour with sets being over two hours in length, the pacing at CityFolk seemed rushed. BSS missed turning what could have been another outstanding show into a quick run through of some of their best material.
When BSS are in full flight, they are a jet plane who’s wings are about to come off. There can be moments of sheer chaos, a tearing at the seams, where the music and the band can be falling apart, right up to a cliff’s edge, looking down, taking that last step over the edge to end up where the audience and band are pulled back from the precipice, and then every thing, music, band and audience turn into a celebration of joy and ecstasy. These moments of musical mayhem, come celebration are hard to find in todays musical landscapes. BSS have long been purveyors of risk taking where the potential is great gain, or great loss.
It was not from lack of trying or lack of focus, but more of a running out of any more road to drive on. With expectations of band members ranging from a lean six piece to the ridiculous 19 that have graced the stage in the past. A cool 10 piece band emerged on the Great Lawn City Stage. Lead by BSS stalwart guitarists, Kevin Drew, Andrew Whiteman, and Brendan Canning, and supported on the back beat and rhythm machine duo of Charles Spearin and Justin Peroff, they promised that they “came here to rock their guts out (Kevin Drew)”. The female singers were the wild card for the show. Ultimately Amy Millan and fellow Stars and BSS early member Evan Cranley were in fine form. They were joined by new singer Ariel Engle, who with husband Andrew Whiteman (Apostle of Hustle, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir) are a folk duo AroarA. Both female singers suffered from being buried in the mix, and along with other sound issues, every thing seemed to get ironed out by the half way mark. The cacophony of aural riches continued with the addition of atwo piece horn section, and sometime additional drummers.
Song high lights included 7/4 Shoreline, Stars and Sons, and the Cause=Time. Trey Anastasio from Phish, dropped a cover of Cause=Time at his last time through Toronto. A sign that BSS has reached far and wide. A memorable Stay Happy was sung by Ariel Engle, which appears on their latest Hugs and Thunder L.P. However, by the time BSS had to sign off on the show, they were just starting to leave the ground and soar. Hopefully BSS will pass back through Ottawa as they head out on a North American tour. Next time a longer set, smaller venue, and more risk and reward should be expected.