On Tuesday, Broken Social Scene played the Fillmore with opening act Frightened Rabbit on the Hug of Thunder tour.
After a strong performance of bass-heavy Scottish rock, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, threw his guitar pick into the crowd, starting the audience interaction that would highlight the night.
The members of Broken Social Scene came onto the stage slowly, and in shifts, so that as they began the night with “KC Accidental,” there was a build from a bass, guitar, and drums, to the full 15-person force that is this band. As they progressed through the set list, lead singer Kevin Drew mourned the too recent loss of rock legend Tom Petty and the tragedy in Las Vegas, saying all the while that it’s important to come together in moments like this and love each other.
With “Texico Bitches,” Drew took his unifying message a step further and climbed down from the stage to sing amongst the crowd, staying behind the security barrier, but reaching out to hold hands and let others share the microphone with him. All the while, guitarists Brendan Canning and Sam Goldberg were putting on a show with whining, energetic solos, dramatically raising their instruments far above their heads to play.
The band kept rocking through the set list, highlighting Drew and other lead singer Ariel Engle in songs like “Stay Happy” and the new album’s title track, “Hug of Thunder.” In “Hug of Thunder,” Engle was bathed in melancholy rays of turquoise light as she sang the words, “Certain times in our lives come to take up some more space than others / And time’s gonna take its time,” before exploding into the song’s chorus.
All the typical bass, guitar, and drum sounds of a rock band were present, but being Broken Social Scene, they also incorporated a trombone, trumpet, violin, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, and synthesizers to build their characteristically full-bodied sound. This power took an emotional turn in “Skyline” as Drew dedicated the song to Tom Petty, once again unifying the crowd in the raw sadness of the day before.
The band notably took no formal breaks throughout the whole set, pushing through “Major,” “Cause,” and “Break,” before Drew addressed the crowd at length once more. By this time, it was clear that the theme of the night was love and appreciation of the moment, and he carried this through in calling for a forgiveness of those who have wronged and hurt us before, saying even though he’s had his heart ripped to shreds before, he “still believes in love.” And in a moment the crowd was screaming for, Drew dedicated the following song, “Lover’s Spit,” to “all of your exes.”
The climax of the night came in the moments that followed, as Drew once again left the stage. This time, however, he climbed over the security barrier and immersed himself in the crowd, singing, holding hands, and hugging those around him, myself included. The song had finished, but the band kept the music going on stage, further uplifting the moment of artist-audience intimacy that is truly the stuff of fans’ dreams.
After almost ten minutes of this crowd interaction, Drew climbed back up on stage, and Engle took over in the quiet angst of “Anthem for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”: the only song that could have followed such a moment as that. “Anthem” was the penultimate song of the night, but in the time before the final one, Drew again got up and asked the audience to join him in a primal scream, not out of hate but out of strength to push forward. After almost thirty seconds of hundreds of people’s shrieks and wails, Broken Social Scene ripped into “Meet Me” to end the night.
It was one of those concerts where for some unexplained reason, a crowd of complete strangers found comfort in each other and in the shared experience. Everyone there knew and loved rock music, and the double tragedy of the day before had taken its toll. But despite all the spiritual weakness that even I myself felt prior to the show, vitality and faith in love and music was restored through a tangible hug of thunder from Drew.