Monday, November 5, 2007

Stars deliver impassioned performance

After seeing Stars live at the Vic on Friday night, it’s clear that if you have to sum them and their live show up in one word, it would be “passionate.” Although the night started off a bit awkwardly after being notified that opener Magnet would not be performing, Stars made up for this by pleasing the sold out crowd with a lengthy set of two hours and 15 minutes, consisting of 21 songs ranging from their early work on through to material from their newest release, “In Our Bedroom After The War.”

I’ll admit that I was initially quite bummed out that Magnet wasn’t performing, considering The Simple Life, Magnet’s newest album, is quite a masterpiece, brimming with pop sensibility and an incomparably unique sound (although comparisons have been made to Air, Beck and Rufus Wainwright).

Stars made any awkwardness dissipate as they kicked off their set with one of the catchiest tracks from their new album, Take Me to the Riot. After their second song, “Set Yourself On Fire,” front man Torquil Campbell looked out at the crowd, packed into the venue tightly in every space and corner possible, and stated, “For a group of small white people in their 30’s, this is a pretty overwhelming experience!”

Next, flaunting a chorus that would make Michael Jackson jealous, was their near-foray into disco territory, “The Ghost of Genova Heights.” The lights dimmed for this and Campbell appeared in a suit made up of LED lights. After a few more tracks from the new album ("Bitches In Tokyo," "Window Bird," "Midnight Coward," and "Personal" -- which Campbell called a “bummer”) and two songs from Set Yourself On Fire, Stars’ third album, they introduced the melodramatic opening track from that album, saying “This is for the person you hate most in the world.” To even out the show that had been mostly filled with new material, Stars then performed a set of four songs from Set Yourself On Fire -– which surely seemed to please the crowd (myself included). Campbell stated again after this that “it’s overwhelming to play in a city we love so much.” The band then performed the title track from the new album, thus creating the peak of the night. Campbell and guitarist Amy Millan harmonized together and traded verses with each other beautifully all night, but they really outdid themselves with the last song.

After the spectacular close to their set, Stars came out to perform an encore of four songs. After messing up on the third song, "Heart," Campbell joked that it seemed “just like a Broken Social Scene concert, only without Kevin” (it’s even funnier to note that three members of Stars, including Campbell, are members of Broken Social Scene). The night closed out for good with "Calendar Girl," the final track from Set Yourself On Fire – leaving the crowd elated and absolutely fulfilled.

One thing is for sure, after witnessing such a long-lasting set from Stars -- it was impossible not to notice that their level of passion never once dwindled, which made for a terrific display of talent and showmanship. So to Campbell, as overwhelming as it may have been for you to play for Chicago -- it was far greater for us to witness it. - Neil Miller, Jr.