Last night Montreal's own Stars played a second sold-out night at the Troubadour and they owned the entire evening — almost literally.
With no opener to distract, main man Torquil Campbell DJ-ed under the moniker Dead Child Star for the first hour. Seated up front, master of his domain, Campbell quizzed the crowd on oldies trivia and blew bubbles into the spotlight. (You gotta love an artist who does his own special effects.) Then, promptly at 9:15 p.m., the rest of the band joined him and launched into the first of two sets.
Hour one was dedicated to Stars' latest release, The Five Ghosts, which they played in its entirety. Like giddy kids showing off what they'd done at school that day, the band bounced around with nervous excitement, proudly announcing each new song.
Campbell even made sure that there was an interlude between song five and six, when you'd flip the record over and “have a cup of tea or smoke a doobie.” It was the perfect way to experience an album for the first time, even if the affair was a hot and sticky one.
What makes Stars' songs so fascinating is an ever-present struggle between two elements, even if those elements keep changing: the crunchy guitar riffs and the sparkly synthesizers, the intertwining of the male and female perspectives, or the bright pop melodies peppered with lyrics that threaten to rip your heart to shreds.
Campbell and Amy Millan are never satisfied with just one perspective. Both sides of a story are represented within a song without judgment — all points of view are equally valid. Or as Campbell succinctly put it, “See, it's possible to laugh and cry at the same time. Buy me a couple drinks after the show and I'll show you.”
After a brief intermission, the band returned to play a set made up entirely of the hits. The crowd perked up as if awoken by electrical current. The entire place shook as they sang along to songs off of Stars' near-perfect 2004 album Set Yourself On Fire, and 2007's In Our Bedroom After the War. The audience even cheered for a melodica solo. A kid in the front row was so overcome with emotion that he clung to the stage with his eyes clenched shut for several numbers.
And the band threw white roses out into the crowd after each song.
What could have induced this fervor? Well, some of us want our pop songs complex. Forget those tracks about sexting in a club or picking up a hottie's digits. We want to know what happens next. When you meet your ex-lover at a party and forget his name, or the details of the last knowing night two people spend together before they part ways for all time.
Stars' songs reflect the awkward moments that reveal themselves after the relationship has gone sour — when the rose-tinted lenses come off and the real storytelling begins.