“We are human beings,” Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew told the crowd at Stubb’s shortly after 1 A.M. last night, “and we’re still figuring our s— out.” It was an atypically humble sentiment coming from the headliner at a choice outdoor SXSW showcase like this. Then again, Drew isn’t your average swaggering rock frontman. The sprawling Toronto band’s first album together in five years (due May 4) is called Forgiveness Rock Record, after all, and seeking forgiveness, compassion, understanding from the world seemed one of the key themes in the new material they played at Stubb’s.
Yet aside from a few early moments of mic and monitor trouble, no apologies were needed last night. The seven main band members on stage — Drew plus Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin, Sam Goldberg, Justin Peroff, Lisa Lobsinger, and Andrew Whiteman, often assisted by a six-piece brass section — threw themselves into the music with abandon, building up crescendo after crashing crescendo of melody and noise. Epic grandeur is a quality that many of the artists at SXSW strive for; I haven’t seen anyone get there more convincingly than BSS did at Stubb’s. While they are indeed still working out how to perform some of their new tunes, they nailed quite a few, including show-opener “World Sick” (studio version below), the spacious, thudding “Sweetest Kill,” and several others whose titles I didn’t catch.