The disbanding of Broken Social Scene two years ago brought to mind the break-up of UK boy band Take That in 1996. Suddenly they were four lackluster solo careers to contend with and each with varying degrees of success (Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow) or cringe-worthy failure (Jason Orange and Mark Owen).
Those of us familiar with Take That’s pop which was ubiquitous, recoiled at the prospect even as young teen fans everywhere were bawling their eyes out like it was the end-of-the-world.
So too were BSS fans disappointed but the reverse was true, the exciting prospect that they would be two to 17 alumni members free to spread their message in different guises through solo projects and their own break-away bands. It’s kind of genius.
There has always been a swirling mass of musicians and singers around the two original co-founders, Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew. When they announced there were disbanding some like Metric, Stars and Fiest were already on seamless projects with their own bands. Drew is currently working on a soon-to-be-released solo album and it is Canning that is the first out of the gate with his solo effort, “You Gots 2 Chill” under his own new label, Draper Records.
He was recently in San Francisco with his new five-piece band performing at The Chapel, in The Mission. A smaller venue then Canning got used to playing at the height of BSS but when interviewed, his response was, "I like this venue and it's a good size crowd to play for." Indeed, the delicate finger-plucking he has taken to on the acoustic for this album will be well-served in these intimate surrounds.
When he gets on stage, dressed in a cosy sweater with his trademark glasses Canning begins with “Nothing Is Worth Than Anything Else” and is accompanied by Marnie Herald on vocals; Steve Singh on guitar; Greg Calderone on keyboard; and Graham Vincent Jones on drums.
Then it is “Plugged In” one of the albums most recognizable songs. A slow whisper of a tune that with the acoustic guitar at the fore, leads all the other instruments to quiet crescendos like gentle waves at even-tide.
Feeling suitably warmed-up Canning reaches for his sweater saying, “Let’s take off this Christmas sweater and make room for the KLF.” The boisterous “Vibration Walls” follows with Calderone moving to the guitar whilst a San Francisco ‘member’, David Wickland goes up on stage to take-over on the keyboard and with Singh rousing on backing vocals. It has a driving jam-session feel harking back at BSS with a jamboree-like atmosphere on stage.
“Never Go To The Races” with the Fahey-finger plucking and the bossa-nova hook of “Late Night Stars” where Canning swaps his guitar for a bass follows smoothly. The audience clap happily with appreciation after each song, lapping it all up.
Then he says, “Because you’re being so nice. We’re going to play something from back home.” You’d think that would perhaps be a Broken Social Scene number but no, it’s rapper, Drake! Of course, Drake also hails from Toronto and storming the charts with his heartfelt brand of R&B that has no smack of misogyny or drugs. Holly Miranda (the opening act) joins them on stage, together with Ben Fox on bass. Canning and company embark on an amazing cover of “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” The hit has been covered quite a bit from Holy Ghost to Arctic Monkeys but Canning and company’s cover is by far the best live. He should find a way to bottle it for sure.
For the next song, he says, “Ok party time is over” and launches into “Bullied Days”. When the gorgeous Herald joins him on vocals, it gives the song such a sweet and tender touch that it reminds me of the Andrew McCarthy line in ‘80s coming-of-age film, “St Elmo’s Fire”, “When she sang ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ the sweetest Karen Carpenter you’d ever heard,” the character, Kevin declares of his high school band crush.
They do a couple more songs, taking a request from zealous fans for “Hey Marika, Get Born” before saying “You guys got it made in San Francisco, all your venues fucking rock.” As his band leaves the stage Canning starts freestylin’ on his guitar before calling up from the audience, Edwin Huizinga for a delightful, meandering encore of improv pieces between the violin and guitar. What a treat!
To purchase "You Gots 2 Chill", please click here.
Nothing Is Worse Than Anything Else
Never Go To the Races
Late Night Stars
Just Hold On We're Going Home
Once I Was A Runner
Hey Marika, Get Born