Review and – Stars at the Orpheum, Vancouver, Feb 19 2010
– review by Kristina Mameli/photos by Michael Caswell
“Captivating” is probably the best word to describe Stars’ spectacular performance as part of the Cultural Olympiad Friday at the Orpheum.
“It’s great to be here for Super Bowl weekend ladies and gentlemen,” exclaimed co-front man Torquil Campbell. “Oh no, wait…”
From the moment the Montreal quintet (complete with auxiliary guitarist) hit that stage, the crowd was on its feet. The stage was heavily laden with white roses which would become a focal point, periodically hurled into the audience leaving a shower of fluttering petals in their wake. Amy Millan described one particularly half-hearted effort as “not a gold medal throw.”
The Juno Award and Polaris Prize nominees made it clear with their passionate showmanship and electric dynamic why they deserve such critical acclaim. Campbell and Millan’s voices duelled beautifully through fan favourite after fan favourite such as the rose pedal enhanced “Elevator Love Letter”, the energetic “Bitches In Tokyo” and the danceable “What I’m Trying to Say”.
The band even debuted three new songs from their forthcoming, yet untitled effort, the follow-up to In Our Bedroom After the War, due out in the spring. The minimalist folk ballad “Dead Hearts” was a sad and heartfelt opus complemented by sparse but powerful piano and simple guitar. Overall, the new tracks seem to favour more of a folk feel than the band’s previous work.
Songs such as “Calendar Girl” united the crowd, and had everyone singing along. “Take Me to the Riot” seemed to be what everyone was waiting for, the excitement palpable from the opening strains. Millan was enchanting at centre stage, boxing roses hanging from her mic stand as the band went directly into “Window Bird”.
Cellist Romesh Thavanathan and a guest violinist (filling in for Erin Aurich) from opener Hey Rosetta! joined the headliner on stage for a spine chillingly beautiful rendition of “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” to end their performance. The thunderous applause quickly drew the obligatory encore.
“I feel like we should play Vancouver more often,” said West End Vancouver resident Campbell, expressing the band’s humble gratitude. He also had some words of wisdom for Olympic athletes. “Don’t do drugs until your event is over.”
Following “Ageless Beauty” and “One More Night”, drummer Pat McGee drumming with roses, the band was done, leaving only flower petals and applause as they exited stage left.
St. John’s Hey Rosetta! started right on time, leaving the stragglers, filing in and aided by ushers, kicking themselves for being late. Mind you, it could just have been the wall-to-wall people on Granville that hindered their punctuality.
Campbell said it best later in Stars’ set: “It’s a big honour to play with Hey Rosetta!… they’re never playing with us again; they’re too good—they can do it on their own.”
The Orpheum was the perfect setting for the show. As singer Tim Baker noted. “This building doesn’t make any sense,” he said in awe of the majestic Orpheum. “Who created it? Who’s responsible? So many seats! It’s a pleasure to be here.”
Piano- and string-laden, the band transitioned from soft to heavy as if intuitively, all instruments, including Baker’s voice, richly complementing each other. The sextet held the audience in awe with its haunting music and heartfelt songs. The East Coast Polaris shortlisters ended with “A Thousand Suns”, prompting the audience to clap in time and sway to the chorus.
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