Friday, September 24
Better than: Popping the question via JumboTron at a Yankees game.
Montreal’s Stars are the sort of band that scatters roses all over the place — atop amps, laced into microphone stands, draped across effects pedals — so they can occasionally whip either full stems or fistfuls of petals into the crowd, an extra gesture of ultra-romanticism just in case their their swooning dream-pop anthems (with titles like “I Died So I Could Haunt You” or “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” or “Time Can Never Kill the True Heart”) don’t tip you off. “People fall in love to Stars!” declares co-frontperson Amy Millan, settling onto a bench for a coffeehouse-acoustic version of “Ageless Beauty.” “If you’re here tonight and you’re single, I can pretty much guarantee that tonight’s the night.”
And then there is a marriage proposal!
Kind of a half-assed one, though! This is, I believe, my fourth personally witnessed rock-concert proposal (in order of likelihood that the marriage is intact: Clutch, Erykah Badu, Sunny Day Real Estate), but all those at least featured the happy couple actually onstage. But here, Millan just follows up with a simple “Stuart really hopes you say yes, Lisa,” and then it’s time to sing the song with the word “cruelty” in it as Lisa and Stuart hash it out in evident semi-privacy. BOOOOOOO.
Stars, proud members of the extended Broken Social Scene cabal, primarily exploit the tension between Millan and singer/songwriter cohort Torquil Campbell, she breathy and gleeful, he boisterous and super-intense. Their best songs (including “Ex-Lover” actually, leadoff to 2004’s Set Yourself on Fire, the finest Pitchfork-readers-in-love record yet made) chronicle either thriving or (more likely) failed relationships from both sides, trading off verses or even lines. The melodrama is stupendous, though buried a bit tonight by Terminal 5’s detail-dampening enormousness — Campbell announces, from the stage, a far more intimate show at Littlefield for Sunday night: “Come see us when we’re drunk, we’re way better.”
That’s probably true: Overall they’re a bit shaky, botched chords and general occasional waywardness, though the drummer (dressed like Ferris Bueller in disguise, hat/glasses/etc.) is visually impressive, and the bassist still quietly drives everything, slipping lithe, busy melodies into the spaces of “Reunion” and the showstopping “Elevator Love Letter,” that one probably deployed a little too early, but ah, well. The band’s fifth record, The Five Ghosts, is tonight’s focus, of course — the five-song encore inadvisedly ends with Millan’s “Changes,” a dour recasting of Madonna’s “True Blue” — and “We Don’t Want Your Body” fares best, an electro-pop frivolity with an eight-bit-Nintendo bassline driving the night’s frothiest, goofiest chorus, mostly the title repeated precociously and unconvincingly. Something for Stuart and Lisa to remember this night by, I suppose, along with several handfuls of rose petals. Oh, and the bubble machine.
Critical Bias: No seriously, Set Yourself on Fire is awesome.
Overheard: The essentially passed-out dude who spent the whole show crouched down behind a pillar had nothing much to say at all.
Random Notebook Dump: Campbell is probably the most intense melodica player I’ve ever seen. Don’t give yourself a headache, dogg.