Last year Stars released The North, the fifth full-length from the Toronto quintet. It was a continuation of their great run so far, being one of the few bands, in my mind, to not release a bad album. In fact, when I filled out my Pitchfork People’s List last year, there were only two names that appeared more than once : Beck (Sea Change and Midnight Vultures) and Stars (In Our Bedroom After The War and Set Yourself On Fire). They’ve been making great music since I was in high school, but I’d never seen them live before a couple days ago.
I was a little bummed out that local favorites California Wives weren’t joining Stars for this tour, but the openers were both solid groups. Vancouver’s Said The Whale played first, followed by Milo Greene from Los Angeles. Due to the intense March Madness matchup between Marquette and Butler, we missed Said The Whale’s set. However, we made it in time to see Milo Greene play most of their self-titled debut, including the hit “1957.”
Milo Greene play a very intricate form of dream-pop/folk that has a lot of moving parts and harmonies. Seeing them live, I was mostly looking for how they pulled off some of the more complex songs. Turns out they did it quite well and made it seem pretty effortless. My favorite song from their set was “Don’t You Give Up On Me,” but they also played a great cover of Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago.” I’m not a big Stevens fan, but that song fits perfectly in Milo Greene’s wheelhouse.
By the time the set was finished Metro was completely packed full of people. Kari got a spot in the reserved section where they let her take pictures. After being denied access, I made my way back down to the floor and forced my way up to the spot I usually get at this venue-stage left, next to the wall of speakers. There was a bit of room there as people were still crowding up to the bar before the lights went dark again.
When the time finally came for the show to start, around 10:30, the disco balls started up and I found myself a bit surprised by them. I know Stars has a bit of a dance vibe to some of their songs, but the reason I fell in love with their music was the ability they have to make things that seem cripplingly depressing tolerable. That said, I couldn’t help but smile when Torquil Campbell came out to the opening of “Theory Of Relativity” and the energy in the room just swept me up in the moment.
I had a few songs in my head that I really wanted to hear at this show. After a couple high-energy songs in a row, my confidence that it would happen fell quite a bit. Amazingly, after six fairly rockin’ tracks, they slowed things down a lot with one of my favorites, “Personal.” That song is pretty much as dark as Stars go, and after the sugary opening this was just the bitter pill I needed to balance out.
One thing I wasn’t expecting, but enjoyed quite a bit, was how talkative Torquil and Amy were. Torquil in particular seemed to have a lot to say. Most of it was just his appreciation for their fans, which seemed completely sincere. Another thing he said reminded me of something Bruce Springsteen said when I saw him. Right before they launched into “Dead Hearts” Torquil talked about the ghosts of our past, and how we need to keep them close, because they love us. He also said, in an earlier bit of banter, that “Music can make you better.” I couldn’t agree more.
I was happy to hear them play songs that spanned their whole career. It leaned a little heavy to the stuff on The North, but that’s to be expected. In one instance Amy asked if there were any Stars-obsessed fans out in the audience. She dedicated the song “Krush” (from The Comeback EP) to them, stating that they had never played it live before.
Of course, as I told Kari later, they could have just played “Take Me To The Riot” over and over for 90 minutes and I would’ve been good. Hopefully in 2017 Stars will go on one of those tours where a band just plays an album straight through to celebrate In Our Bedroom After The War‘s 10th anniversary. Or maybe they could put on their own festival like Wilco does and just play a different album every night. I would totally go to that festival.
At the end of the main set I took the opportunity to get upstairs and meet up with Kari. The break between the set ending and the encore beginning was pretty brief, only about five minutes. The band came out and played three more songs, including “The 400” as the closer which saw the whole band sitting together in front of the drum set as Torquil sang without accompaniment, save for the harmonies on the chorus.
As a fan of Stars, I really couldn’t have asked for a better show. My only regret is not moving to Chicago earlier so I could have seen them at Schubas with 200 people instead of 1,000 at Metro. They did say that they would book two shows at Metro next time, so that’s something to look forward to. Also, if you’re REALLY into Stars, you can head up to Toronto on June 8th and see them at the Arts & Crafts Field Trip Life 10th anniversary along with Broken Social Scene, Feist, Bloc Party, Ra Ra Riot, and Jason Collett all in one day (I’m seriously considering this).
The Theory Of Relativity
A Song Is A Weapon
We Don’t Want Your Body
The Loose Ends Will Make Knots
What I’m Trying To Say
Hold On When You Get Love
Take Me To The Riot
Elevator Love Song
Your Ex-Lover Is Dead