Montreal’s Stars Shine on St. Louis
One of the thousands of things I love about St. Louis is its quick rewards for consistency. You can pick a home bar, a home restaurant, a home grocery store, and if you go there twice a week for a month, they know you there. It takes care of you. You can trust it. Same goes for small concert venues. As everyone knows, I enjoy dual citizenship between The Firebird and Off Broadway, but I’ve been known to stick my head into Plush once in awhile to see what’s going on. Last night, Plush hosted Canadian indie pop band Stars, a band with which I had only the slightest passing familiarity (pretty much boils down to “I like Broken Social Scene and Canadians”), and
who’d never before played a show in St. Louis who hadn’t played St. Louis since their show at The Pageant in 2008 [Thank you, helpful commenter!]. But when a venue has proven that it won’t steer you wrong, you get to take chances.
Hearing all of Stars’ songs for the first time, I caught obvious whiffs of The Smiths, The Sundays, Everything But the Girl, and even a smidge of 80′s mall pop, think Martika or Tiffany. Melodica solos, electric drums, and sometimes three people playing synthesizers simultaneously, perhaps it’s not the most sophisticated sound on earth, but man, it’s FUN.
And if the sound isn’t sophisticated, the lyrics are the best kind of sassy: independent (“We Don’t Want Your Body”), tongue-in-cheek violent (“Your Ex Lover is Dead”, “Do You Want to Die Together?”, “Through the Mines”), and never boring. It’s not easy to pull of sincerity when you sound so cheerful. But as they sing in “Soft Revolution”: We are here to take the blame/ To take the taunts and live the shame./ We are here to make you feel.
NOObs like me were in the minority. The crowd was mostly stocked with die-hard fans. They sang, they drank (a lot), they danced, and they beamed their wild smiles to the stage. And they were just as familiar with the words to the recently released (September 2012) album The North, as they were with the back catalog. By alternating lead vocal duties, Torq and Amy kept their energy steady for nearly 2 hours.
On a rainy and cold October Friday night, Stars warmed the room like a mug of marshmallows with hot cocoa and a shot of good whiskey. In a way, they plowed through 12 years of songs like they were faithfully covering their favorite band. When singing in harmony, Torq would often position himself hiding behind Amy. Torq tossed three blue LED rings into the crowd, and chucked a drumstick, too. They had fun on stage in ways that long-standing bands usually can’t. Their gratitude, enthusiasm and spontaneous emotion made the night feel special. Here’s hoping Stars make it back to St. Louis soon.
Due to an equipment malfunction (it looked like Patrick McGee’s electric drum pad wasn’t working), Stars was 20 or so minutes late getting started, so I had plenty of time to peoplewatch. Sincerely doubt it’s representative, but a guy chatting up the woman next to him got himself ensnared by a “SO, what kind of music do you listen to?” trap. Rather than gnaw his leg off with something safe, he chose to go all in with his true top four: Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Neon Indian, and Skinny Puppy. Respect, brother.
First opener, Chicago’s California Wives were tight and polite, playing good, loud pop, in preppy sweaters.
I hope they get back here before they get bigger, because I missed most of their set.
Second opener, Diamond Rings, yeeeesh. I don’t know if it was the tragic lack of eye makeup or what, but John O’Regan was a less-confident Vanilla Ice in his white high tops, white jeans and white leather motorcycle jacket with giant bedazzled studs and paste jewels.
A white guy just can’t pull off Andre 3000′s, “Don’t make me break this down for nothing,’” without at least wearing designer high heels. I give props for busting out a few bars of ”"Buffalo Stance,” but Neneh Cherry would probably slap him upside his bleached blonde head.
Also, I want to point out that Stars’ twitter name is @YouAreStars, when they could have taken @WeAreStars. Small things like that really make me root for this band.
Here, I made you a Spotify playlist, if you’re into that.
Stars @ The Plush
October 5th, 2012
1. Theory of Relatively
3. A Song is a Weapon
4. Ageless Beauty
5. The North
6. We Don’t Want Your Body
7. Through the Mines
8. Your Ex Lover is Dead
9. How Much More
10. Do you Want to Die Together?
13. Soft Revolution
14. Lights Changing Colour
16. Dead Hearts
17. Elevator Love Letter
20. Midnight Coward
21. Hold on When you Get Love Let Go When You Give It
22. Take me to the Riot