The Canadian indie darlings of your youth are all grown up, but they’re as saccharine-tinged and morbidly fascinating as ever
They say that if you're in a loving, committed relationship, every day is Valentine's Day. And by they, we mean those self-indulgent authors who pen such quotes on Facebook or Instagram, complete with a photo of the setting sun. But if you were part of the audience at last night's Stars concert, your evening might have just been given that extra kick of romance.
Yesterday's cupids came in the form of the five (and a touring member) musicians who make up Canadian indie rockers Stars. From the get-go, co-lead singer Torquil Campbell leapt onto the stage, arms akimbo and wished the audience a "Happy f*cking Valentine's Day". He dropped the f-bomb early on for a number of reasons we suspect: One, there was a smattering of women smugly carrying bouquets of flowers (you know the sort); and two, the front man hasn't spent Valentine's Day with his wife in 15 years. Still, love continued to permeate through the intimate Victoria Theatre: For the dateless, Campbell assured that many a concert-goer have fallen in love at a Stars gig — but there are those who've fallen out of love too.
Among the bouquet baggers, the crowd largely consisted of those who grew up as teenagers in the early to mid-2000s. They're the ones who probably listened to Death Cab for Cutie (who will play here on 7 March) and Dashboard Confessional, and who religiously watched television series such as The O.C., One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl — in fact, Stars have lent a couple of tunes to these soundtracks. The older millenials were here to see their favourite indie band, all grown up after nearly 16 years in the business.
Campbell started the evening with Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Get It. Off their sixth album The North (2012), it set the stage for the kaftan-swaying Amy Millan to jump in at the minute and half mark with her honeyed vocals. While Campbell had some initial issues with the volume on his keyboard, the track was a teaser to a string of crowd pleasers, which included One More Night from their critically acclaimed album, Set Yourself On Fire (2004).
"When she's breaking his heart she still f*cks like a tease," crooned Campbell, and if your old flame's been at the back of your mind, Stars had a knack for putting him or her back into the spotlight. As fans know, their sounds are part saccharine, part seduction, laced with a morbid look at life and relationships — but they could rock it out if they wanted to, and they certainly did, in a condensed cover of The Smiths' Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.
While Millan's angelic voice enveloped each track like warm socks on a cold night, it's really Campbell's theatrics that made each performance. From mimicking an echo on the microphone and throwing himself to the floor to playing the melodica for Your Ex-Lover is Dead — which, he laments, is dedicated to "the piece of sh*t in your life" — he's an uplifting presence on stage.
Ever thankful for the support from fans, Campbell also dedicated Elevator Love Letter to booker Priya Dewan and promoter Tim Kek of Feedback Asia and Symmetry Entertainment respectively. "We're from the other side of the world, and to think you're listening really blows our mind," gushed the front man. In fact, it was clear that there were loyal listeners among the audience, who recognised Stars' early hits including My Favourite Book (2007) in the encore — a song which Millan shares they didn't even rehearse for. Another oldie and goodie which resurfaced unexpectedly was Tonight (2001), which Campbell said was the first song he and fellow founding member Chris Seligman wrote together.
By the end of the night, people were swaying to the music, holding hands and making plans. If there's a fail-proof way to unite love's believers and disbelievers, an evening with Stars might just do the trick.
Stars performed at Victoria Theatre on 14 February. For more information on Symmetry Entertainment, click here.