Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: Broken Social Scene / TV on the Radio @ Williamsburg Waterfront

Broken Social Scene / TV on the Radio @ Williamsburg Waterfront
September 8, 2011

So often these days opening acts for these kinds of huge shows are up and coming bands, or bands who were lucky enough to get added to the bill, or just bands thrown up there for no apparent reason at all. But every now and then you get a dual headlining act such as at last night's show at the Williamsburg Waterfront that makes you wonder if a backstage coin flip decides who will headline. When I first heard about the show I had assumed Broken Social Scene would be the main attraction and I would have been totally fine with that. But something about TV on the Radio playing into the night, with the constant threat of rain in the air, was just the perfect outdoor show as the summer concert season rapidly winds down.

It certainly seemed like at any moment it was going to start completely pouring during Broken Social Scene's 60 minute set, but thankfully it never did. The larger than life band made great use of their time, opening with "Cause = Time", "Texaco Bitches" and "7/4 Shoreline" before mellowing out with "Late '90s Bedroom Rock For The Missionaries" (one of my favorite songs off of the excellent You Forgot It In People).

It went back and forth like that for the rest of their set, as they occasionally brought out the horn section to play their respective parts. It's pretty amazing how seamlessly the band recreates their studio recordings, but then again they never really have to substitute any arrangements or instruments as literally every aspect of their recordings are accounted for live. BSS closed it out with "Ibi Dreams of Pavement" a song Kevin Drew sang in a weirdly hypnotic and playful tone, and the horn section returned to the stage for a cathartic blast of greatness. Drew stated it would be their last NYC show for a long time, something New Yorkers never like to hear, but somehow even a shortened Broken Social Scene still seemed wildly epic.

The last time I saw TV on the Radio it was at Radio City Music Hall, so I was seated pretty far to the right side of a massive 6,000 capacity venue. I thought it was a great set, but that is just not the best venue to see a band like them. On Friday Night I was able to get maybe 30 feet from the stage dead center, and what a difference it made. Standing there amongst a crowd of thousands of fans in Brooklyn on a cool summer night was nothing short of awe-inspiring. In a way, TV on the Radio are the pinnacle of Brooklyn bands of the 21st century, and what an impact they've made on not only the scene, but the genre of indie music as a whole.

Opening with the excellent and hypnotic "Halfway Home," the propulsion of TVOTR's rhythm section was felt with every hit of the kick drum, the snap of every handclap, the plucking of every bass string. Bass-heavy tracks, particularly on "New Cannonball Blues," produced this fuzzy low-end drone that rattled in your brain, making it impossible to not close your eyes during certain moments and just shake your head in disbelief. They sounded so good. So. Fucking. Good. "This-is-the-only-place-in-the-world-you-should-be-right-now" good. Really... fucking... good.

There were two highlights for me throughout the night's set. The first came right before the band launched into their early track "Young Liars," where Tunde Adebimpe gave a heartfelt dedication to their recently deceased bass player Gerard Smith. It was a truly warming and reflective moment, reminding us all that the relationships we have should never be taken for granted. The dedication to Smith was not only for the song, but for the band entirely, as Adebimpe put it, "the reason for everything we do."

The next highlight was their absolutely amazing performance of "Staring at the Sun," which takes a life of its own in a live setting. Everything felt like it had been building up to the moment where they played it, that when the chorus kicked in it was the only time you could visibly see hundreds of people bouncing to its rhythm. It's always been one of my favorite TVOTR tracks, but the studio recording at this point is almost a weak interpretation of what it has become during their concerts. It also made me realize that they're one of the few bands who pretty much always whip out their older tracks, as if they don't want anyone to think they're ungrateful of the hoards of fans who have been with them since the beginning.

Songs off of Nine Types of Light have certainly grown on me over the year, and the chunk of tracks they played off the album (particularly "Repetition") seemed to have pleased the crowd as well. But it was their performances of "Province," "Wolf Like Me," and "Dancing Choose" that solidified the concert as one of the best outdoor shows of the summer.

Check out both band's setlists and some videos of the night below...

Broken Social Scene's Setlist
Cause = Time
Texico Bitches
7/4 (Shoreline)
Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries
Shampoo Suicide
Fire Eye'd Boy
Stars and Sons
The World at Large (Modest Mouse cover)
Meet Me In The Basement
KC Accidental
Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)

TV on the Radio's Setlist
Halfway Home
The Wrong Way
Caffeinated Consciousness
Second Song
Blues From Down Here
Will Do
Young Liars
New Cannonball Blues
Red Dress
Staring at the Sun
Wolf Like Me

Dancing Choose

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