James Shaw of Metric/Broken SocialScene at Webster
Hall in New York
Story and Interview by Ryan S. Henriquez
Just minutes after witnessing Broken Social
Scene wrap up the third of three shows at NYC's
Webster Hall last week - in which they filled
the 1400+ auditorium each night - the entire
venue was humming with a euphoric afterglow.
The kickoff Thursday night show had some missteps
- some beyond the band's control. Midway through
the set, during an ethereal transition between
songs, lead vocalist Kevin Drew abruptly ordered
the band to "cut it" when techno music
from the dance club beneath began pulsing through
the floorboards of the auditorium, wrecking
the band's momentum. After rebuking Webster
Hall management, bassist / co-frontman Brendan
Canning added to the melee by chastising an
audience member for talking on his cell phone
during a song. As right as Canning was, no one
likes a scolding (least of all New Yorkers),
and the vibe of the show never truly recovered.
What a difference a day makes. By Saturday
night, eager to show Thursday night was a fluke
(Drew even noted Thursday's "freaky"
vibe), the band gripped the crowd early and
never relented. What felt like overlong, even
forced "jams" on Thursday night transformed
into natural, beautiful epic anthems two nights
For me, it was a relief. I believe in this
band, but Thursday night's show left me with
doubts. It didn't help that tonight my pre-show
interview with lead guitarist Andrew Whiteman
never happened, and that somehow I managed to
lose both my shoulder bag and voice recorder
all in the span of the first 3 songs of the
set. But by the conclusion of a set which magically
stretched across some 22 songs (no intermission,
no let up), my faith in the band was restored,
along with my faith in humanity - two concertgoers
approached me separately to return my bag and
recorder that they'd found on the floor. Sweet!
And in a final serendipitous stroke, though
my interview with Whiteman never materialized,
after the show I caught up with Jimmy Shaw -
Julliard graduate, sometime member of Broken
Social Scene, and mainstay of the rock quartet
Metric. Indeed, it seems virtually every BSS
bandmember pulls double-time in another act
or as a solo artist, some as formidable as Feist
and Apostle of Hustle.
At the Webster Hall gigs, Jimmy played guitar
and trumpet alongside the 14+ other BSS members
including Metric chanteuse Emily Haines, a bat-out-of-hell
whose sultry hair-raising banshee cries helped
to exorcise any and all of Thursday night's
RH: Great show, man.
JS: Tonight was incredible. We just had so
much fun tonight. It's been about a year and
half since I played a Broken Social Scene show,
and my God are they fun. It's like a party down
there [on stage]. With so many people performing,
a lot of us can take a break for a few songs,
have a few drinks, and then go back on. It's
a really fun way to tour.
RH: You guys are playing Conan O'Brien on Tuesday,
are you looking forward to that?
JS: Metric actually played Conan a few weeks
ago. It's nothing like it looks like on TV.
The studio is just this tiny little room! They
make some serious use of the wide-angle lenses
with that show. I mean you can't even tell that
Conan O'Brien is this towering giant. He must
be 6 foot 5!
RH: I'm a big fan of your last record [Old
World Underground, Last Gang 2003] though to
be honest I haven't had a chance yet to really
listen the new album [Live It Out, Last Gang,
JS: The new one definitely has a darker edge
to it. We recorded it through a long, dark winter
when we weren't really in the best headspace,
and I think you can feel that. But it made for
one really interesting record, I think.
RH: The new album definitely has a different
vibe to it than [Old World Underground].
JS: I'm happy we mixed it up with the new record.
If you make your first two albums with the same
sound, you can set yourself up where people
expect you to sound that way your whole career.
RH: Any fear of alienating old fans?
JS: I've heard some folks complaining it doesn't
sound like the old record, but I'm glad for
that. It usually means they really liked the
first record -and this is just something different.
We could make 5 albums and you may only like
3, but so what - I can live with that, and I'm
still happy to be making the music that I want
RH: So I have to ask you - what was it like
opening for the Stones last month at the Garden?
JS: It was incredible. The first night we didn't
really get to sound check, and it was sorta'
weird. But the second night was probably the
best show of my life. Maybe the best night of
my life. I'd never experienced anything like
it. It was surreal.
RH: Is the Garden just immense?
JS: It really is a beautiful room. A big one,
for sure, but still beautiful. A lot of arenas
like that just aren't made for concerts, but
the Garden definitely is. You don't really get
how big it is when you're on stage. But after
one of our sets I met up with my dad who had
flown from Toronto to see us. He was up in the
nosebleeds, and when I went to sit with him,
that's when I really got the magnitude of the
place - and what we had just done.
RH: What was the Rolling Stones touring juggernaut
like? I imagine it must be a well-oiled machine.
JS: It's literally a moving city. They've got
like a hundred tour buses alone. 300+ people
that travel with the band, and another hundred
or so that work off-site. It really is a sight
Shaw had to cut our conversation short to return
to the stage to pack up his gear. Even after
three sold out shows at Webster Hall, with a
band of 14-plus like Broken Social Scene, no
one is above some grunt work on the road.
JS: Hell, I even feel spoiled with Metric.
We're a quartet and we've got some roadies,
so we don't need to handle our own gear. But
it's obviously a little different with a band
of this size. But, hey I ain't complaining!
As the cleaning crew mopped the floor, Webster
Hall simultaneously lowered a trapeze rope from
the ceiling to prepare the club-goers' burlesque
show which would follow. Shaw had to laugh.
It was hard to believe the spectacle of this
incredible concert - which at times bordered
on a spiritual revival - was being so briskly
swept away with the empty cups beer cups to
make way for an evening of strippers hanging
above a bunch of club kids.