Kevin Drew – The Bowery Ballroom – April 28, 2014
It had been a couple years, so I’d kind of forgotten what kind of live presence Kevin Drew has. But last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the Broken Social Scene frontman quickly reminded everyone of the captivating live show he can put on, colluding with the giddy crowd along the way. He opened with “Mexican Aftershow Party” playing piano, his strong voice as distinctive as ever, with the band surrounding his vocals with electronic beeps and an ethereal hum. But for much of the show, Drew played acoustic guitar, giving the songs off his new album, Darlings, a stripped-naked feel. But it was his band—an excellent ensemble in the spirit of BSS, led by Charles Spearin on bass—that provided the shimmering, flowing and beautiful music for Drew to swim around in. And along with his lyrics and personality, the effect was like skinny-dipping in an ocean of sound: half profound, half profane.
The show hit on most of the new material with many highlights along the way. As the set continued, Drew began to open up with anecdotes and asides, drawing in the audience. “Good Sex” was preceded by a short bit about his dad, who’s his business manager, asking whether Drew can sing a “love song that’s not about semen,” leading him to singing, “I fucking love you” before Spearin charged in with some curvaceous boogie bass bombs. Yes, there were plenty of NSFW moments in Drew’s show, but it made it all seem more real and, ironically, more heartfelt. Continuing on that theme, and throwing some red meat to the BSS faithful, the band played “Fucked Up Kid,” off 2007’s Spirit If…, contrasting Drew’s new, quiet keyboard-driven sound with plenty of big guitar rock.
Judge musicians by their talent, the songs they sing and the other talented musicians who will gladly play with them: Drew proved himself on all counts on Monday night. But it was the communal connection with the crowd that elevated the performance to something special. From the edge of the stage during “My God,” Drew sang, “What are you dreaming about now?” as the band curtained him with a dreamy backdrop before the singer jumped to the floor, calling in everyone closer and having them raise their arms, like the audience had swallowed him as he sang. (Drew later hugged concertgoers and had them say a little bit about themselves as if hosting a talk show. Sure it was corny, but it was an honest connection and a powerful moment.) The final charge of the 100-plus minute set included a moving solo acoustic new song possibly called “Skylar,” a guest appearance from opener Andy Kim and at least one more foray into the crowd. Near the end, Drew obliged various Broken Social Scene requests, bouncing around some sing-alongs before settling on a solo acoustic version of “It’s All Gonna Break,” which often served as the big, long rock-out set closer for BSS shows. But last night, it was a rowdy but real sing-along filled with plenty of expletives, poetic lyrics and glorious anthemic moments. It encapsulated Drew and the night perfectly, the crowd reminded once again that, oh, yes, he’s still got it. —A. Stein