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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Broken Social Scene brings it all together

November 09, 2005|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

"What will you do if I run off and take a quick smoke?" Broken Social Scene leader Kevin Drew asked the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre audience before leaving for a pre-encore break on Monday. "Will you guys be OK?"

He was sincere. But then he'd been sincere throughout the show as he sang of love and passion -- not as concepts but as elements essential to the very existence of life -- while his compatriots crafted exhilarating sounds that were no less than musical renderings of those states of being.

In a fertile wave of Canadian acts that are not so much bands as communities, Broken Social Scene on Monday (the first of two nights at the Fonda) showed itself to be perhaps the most communal. The tour's cast of 16 musicians is drawn from several bands, with the principal members of "post-rock" instrumental group Do Make Say Think and eclectic singer-songwriter Leslie Feist among them. Covering many bases, Broken Social Scene at times reached the heady rush and kinetic exuberance of Montreal's Arcade Fire and at times seemed like an unlikely cross between Sonic Youth (minus the cold intellectualism) and the Polyphonic Spree (minus the robes and choir).

Given the sheer numbers -- five electric guitarists, six horn players, several singers, two drummers, etc. -- it could have been a mess. But the music was focused and defined well beyond what's on the three BSS albums -- even if the definition could shift from moment to moment, as sparkling as the northern lights.

Feist (who performs under just her last name) was no less impressive in her opening set. With alt-pop explorations that included inventively structured rock, Brazilian-influenced lilts and Lulu-esque torch-pop, she displayed her quadruple-threat talents as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and naturally engaging presence.

Oh, Canada!

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