Over The Weekend: TV on the Radio & Broken Social Scene at the House of Blues

TV on the Radio & Broken Social Scene
House of Blues
September 16, 2011

Better than: having a ticket with a "rain or shine" guarantee from the box office, only to have it cancelled at the last minute.

As a general rule, when two bands with large fan bases of their own share a bill, some disappointment is inevitable -- for both the musicians and the at least some of the audience.

Even when declared as a "co-headlining" tour (which was, interestingly, not the case this past Friday at the House of Blues), the fans of the band relegated to opening slot can't help but feel a bit slighted. When the opening band is allocated only a slightly-more-generous-than-usual set time, that feeling is only heightened.

Yes, this was the case on Friday night.

When the opening band is a group of musicians that clearly thrive on playing with each other and for the audience, and when the headliners are a group of musicians that give the impression that they're phoning it in, well, I think you know where this is going...

Broken Social Scene opened their set at precisely 8 o'clock -- early for a Friday. With no new releases since last February's epic "make-up" show, they played a set that pulled nearly equally from their three major releases. And even though some of these favorites date back to 2002's You Forgot It In People, the crowd lit up for every song, as did the band.

It's obvious that these folks simply love the camaraderie of playing live, and have fun hamming it up for themselves and the crowd.

One of the biggest marvels of this band is that they can have five or six guitarists at any one time exchanging and weaving lead guitar parts together without sounding bombastic. Maybe the biggest surprise of their hour-long set was a cover of Modest Mouse's "The World At Large."

The only disappointment was that set simply ended too soon.

Headliner TV On The Radio started their set after about a 45-minute break. The band is touring behind the excellent but somewhat subdued Nine Types Of Light. This is also the first appearance in Dallas since the sudden passing of bassist Gerard Smith, who, after a brief battle, succumbed to cancer this past April. The stage was set with a galaxy of stars backdrop that was a nice touch.

The set opened with "Caffeinated Consciousness," the first single from Nine Types. And the sound and presence of the band contrasted dramatically from Broken Social Scene. The BSS sound was very full, but it was never overwhelming. TVOTR had a mix that was like a sonic bludgeon, with a bass drum that sounded as if it had been conjured from the halls of Valhalla.

With the exception of gestulating singer Tunde Adebimpe, the band members tended to be very self-contained. Singer guitarist Kyp Malone spent most of the evening looking down as he wandered his area of the stage, as if looking for something he dropped. The other members tended to provide pretty workmanlike performances.

Despite these shortcomings, the set was a good one. Drawing nearly equally from all of the bands releases, high points for me included "Young Liars" from the 2004 EP by the same name. The set closed with crowd favorite "Wolf Like Me," and the encore opened with another favorite, "Half Way Home."

So there you have it: One band that loves the stage and performing live, and another where most of the band seemed a bit disconnected from each other and the audience. And, unfortunately, in the wrong order.

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've seen plenty of bands over the years that try to manufacture enthusiasm during their performance. But in the six or so times I've seen Broken Social Scene, I've never sensed a moment of emotion coming from the stage that seemed less than genuine. And I appreciate that.

By The Way: I was sorry to hear about the cancellation of the Explosions concert when I heard about it from my ticket holder wife. But I have to tell you, being able to sing in the rain that was falling on Dallas after the HOB concert was one of the highlights of my evening.

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