Brendan Canning – Mercury Lounge – January 24, 2014
The jokes kind of write themselves: Canadian musician postpones show due to visa issues, comes “down South” to New York City in January during a historic cold snap instead of October when climes may have better suited him. But as Brendan Canning explained at Mercury Lounge on Friday night, it was all for the best—the delay had given him time to tweak his band and the music, and judging by the resulting set, who am I to argue?
Looking every part the veteran and an elder statesman of the Toronto music scene, Broken Social Scene’s Canning and Co. opened with a wash of spacey instrumentals, his band, a full guitar-heavy sextet, trending toward the subtle and the beautiful. The wall of sound eventually turned into tracks from Canning’s new album, You Gots 2 Chill. It’s filled with lo-fi songs and ideas, many sounding almost like he had made them lovingly, in his bedroom. Live, though, the band added an oomph and a measured interplay to the material, each song sounding like it could just keep going forever without complaint from musicians or the audience. Random film clips were projected on the back wall, giving the impression that the band was playing on that magical other side of a movie screen, perhaps an entire other audience out there unaware of the cinematic music being made.
Late in the show, when Canning had loosened up with the banter, he gave a helpful recap of the set: “spacey intro, first songs off You Gots 2 Chill, old Broken Social Scene, album material, new songs,” and that’s pretty much how it went. But song selection was only part of the appeal, the band felt totally frictionless, free to glide unimpeded in any direction. “However Long” was a highlight, stripped of the electronic bleeps on the studio version, the band dug into the breezy melody with vigor. It’s always a pleasure to see a band of this caliber deliver quality new material, and Canning didn’t disappoint. “Once I Was a Runner” was an indie-rock keeper with a jangly mellow outro. “Hey Marika,” advertised as a cross between the Everly Brothers and the Grateful Dead, didn’t disappoint with a rollicking jam that Canning hoped might get them into Bonnaroo. The final song, “Your Turn,” kept that open-ended theme going, starting sweetly and then building to a big BSS-esque finish while the projection turned appropriately to a rocket blasting into orbit. Canning stayed onstage with his acoustic guitar plucking a beautiful little instrumental solo to end a night well worth the wait. —A. Stein