Stars | 09.25.08

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Photo: Todd Owyoung 

I’ve always wondered why Stars work for me, why I thoroughly love listening to them. They’re cheesy at times and often over the top, but instead of being annoying, they produce wonderful pop music.


The Pageant, St. Louis

Stars cured my hangover. The night after seeing Neko Case perform a great set while I drank a bit too much (also at the Pageant), I honestly wasn’t really up for going to a show again. I felt shitty and sleepdeprived the entire day leading up to the show. But, as soon as it started, things got better. As I sipped on my Coke and listened to the indie-pop awesomeness of Amy Millan, Torquil Campbell, and company, my mood quickly switched from really crabby to happy. 

As I called it to my friends, they began their set with "The Night Starts Here", from the 2007 release, In Our Bedroom After the War. From our vantage point, my two friends and I were really confused about how only five people were producing such an enormous sound. Several songs in, we realized that there were, in fact, six people onstage. As it turned out, there was a man behind the curtain. I assume people on the other side of the venue could see him, but for those of sitting in the audience-left area, we were slightly confused about how the guitar parts kept going when Amy stopped playing. Still, even with six people, the intensity of their sound was impressive. 

I’ve always wondered why Stars work for me, why I thoroughly love listening to them. They’re cheesy at times and often over the top, but instead of being annoying, they produce wonderful pop music. While listening to them live, I think I figured it out. There is a great earnestness to them, and this quality makes everything come together. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there are beautiful vocals, great instrumentation, and jeez, these folks know themselves well. Towards the end of the set, before playing "The First Five Times," Torquil Campbell announced, "Let’s get to the songs about fucking and death." What Stars songs aren’t about fucking and death?

At times, it was hard to differentiate whether Campbell’s politically-spattered in between song talk was directed at the audience or ifhe was reciting bits of spoken word. Perhaps it was one and the same. 

Worthy of note, Amy Millan’s shoes must get a nod. After about six songs, I noticed that she was wearing, while she danced and played guitar, gold sequined heels. A lovely vocalist, she is also ridiculously adorable. What cuter words can be uttered than (before beginning one of the highlights of the set, "Midnight Coward") "This is for everyone who ever had sex to Miles Davis"? 

Especially live, I must draw comparisons to Morrissey, as far as vocals and dramatic stage presence goes, in regards to Campbell. Amy Millan’s presence is much more subdued, but she was not upstaged by Campbell, who in addition to vocals, rocked out on melodica and trumpet during a handful of songs.

After playing sixteen songs, which is a pretty darn good amount of songs to play, they left the stage momentarily and came back for a four-song encore, which included, happily, "Take Me to the Riot" and "One MoreNight." | Jaffa Aharonov

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