Stars | 2.16.06

But there were times when I wondered if it was all a big elaborate ruse, if Amy Millan would come out wearing a trucker hat and a smirk, telling us that we’d all just been Punk’d.

 

The Gargoyle, St. Louis 

Judging by their discography, you’d expect Canadian indie-popsters Stars to walk around late at night holding hands, reading 19th century French poetry aloud, and gushing over how beautiful love is. Damn hippies.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but such unabashed romanticism makes me feel quite uncomfortable deep down in the black hole where my heart should be. Call me a cynic, but Stars always seemed to be a bit too precious, too refined, too idealistic for my tastes. Sure, the music itself was something to be commended: the vocals always pitch perfect, the melodies impossibly pleasing. But there were times when I wondered if it was all a big elaborate ruse, if Amy Millan would come out wearing a trucker hat and a smirk, telling us that we’d all just been Punk’d. Because seriously, how can someone sing “You will cry/and I will cry/’cause all the love’s/alive tonight” without a trace of irony? This is indie-pop, not Rent.

It was for this reason that I was curious to see how Stars would come across live. Pressing questions raced through my inquisitive mind. How would their quaint sound translate onstage? Would they really practice the idealism they preached? Does lead singer Torquil Campbell really sound like that in real life?

Arts & Crafts devotees breathe easy—I am one of the converted. Despite some of my misgivings, and Campbell’s queenier-than-thou voice, Stars performed so perfectly, so effortlessly, that it was hard to imagine that I had ever doubted them. All of their twee charm was present, but in a live setting, it was less saccharine and actually…believable. The coffee table and living room lamp on stage, the drummer with the faux-hawk—it was all so wonderfully natural. The schmaltzy strains of violin in “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and its reprise “One More Night” complimented the songs perfectly, inspiring crowd sing-alongs. Numbers like “Soft Revolution” and “Set Yourself on Fire” managed to shake off the young lovers vibe and even led to some spazztastic dancing courtesy of yours truly. Fan favorites “Calendar Girl” and “Elevator Love Letter” may have pushed the cuteness levels, but let’s face it: Millan could sing “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and it would be adorable.

Meanwhile, Campbell interacted with the crowd confidently: praising their enthusiasm, making Dick Cheney jokes, and even going as far as saying that when he looked out upon the crowd, he felt that the future was going to be okay. Millan added in a breathy voice, “It’s all up to you!” That’s right, they actually said that! And I didn’t gag! Instead, as the band began their euphoric rendition of “Ageless Beauty” and Millan’s voice began to soar above the crowd, the lights blacked out, and people pulled out their cell phones and lighters, I began to feel that maybe things were going to be okay. You know, I hear that optimism is totally the new pessimism.

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