In The Flesh...Stars Live @ The Pyramid

>> Tuesday, 11 May 2010

I first caught Stars at the Pyramid on an unbearably cold Friday night way back in February 2003. The plunging mercury coupled with the band not taking the stage until 1, meant about 25 people saw them that night. Prior to starting, an understandably upset Torquil Campbell blew past me muttering, “Let’s play this fucking show already.” But as Stars settled into “What the Snowman Learned About Love”, the time and the inevitable confrontation with the brutal outside weather didn’t matter to the thin crowd. The half-hour I caught was enchanting, one of my favourite concert experiences to date. I wish I could’ve stayed until the end, but the last bus departed at 1:35.

Stars have gone supernova ever since. Each return to Winnipeg has brought bigger crowds in front of Stars with the band graduating from the Pyramid to the Burt. The Montreal-based quintet's recent announcement that they’ll be touring intimate clubs meant a surprising-but-welcomed return to their Alma Mater. Further intriguing was the show’s concept: for the main set, Stars would play their brand new, not-yet-released record (not even on the rogue file-sharing sites, I think), Five Ghosts, in its entirety, followed by a fan-voted encore.

Taking the stage at a surprisingly early 10:20, Stars performed, as advertised, the whole of Five Ghosts in track order to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd. What immediately struck me was how stripped down and edgier their new record sounded. The ornate production and melodramatic arrangements have been minimized on Five Ghosts, as have the direct and playful boy-girl vocal interplay between Campbell and Amy Milan. This time around the band channels a harsher 80s sound replete with strident electronics that makes these songs not as immediately accessible as past material (A caveat: it was tough to gauge the crowd’s collective response, since this was everyone’s first exposure to the tunes). The band’s one-two vocal punch is still utilized effectively throughout Five Ghosts, just differently. Campbell and Milan harmonize more with each other, and any vocal exchanges don’t register as tongue-in-cheek responses. This time around, the golden-voiced duo seems bent on complementing each other’s mellifluous pipes.

In the end, Five Ghosts will require listeners to spend some time with the challenging wares it offers up, and I’m looking forward to hearing the finished product through my earphones.

The fan-voted encore wasn’t an encore per se since it came immediately after the 45-minute main set. More like a second half. It was loaded, unsurprisingly, with all the favs like “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”, songs where Torq and Amy’s sporty vocal fencing are front-and-centre.

During “Ex-Lover”, lead-off track from 2004’s Set Yourself on Fire, I noticed (and heard) most of the crowd gleefully singing along. About midway through, I further noticed most males were singing along with Torq while a lot of females took over when Amy did.

And, I must admit, I found it very charming.


Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
The Night Starts Here
Take Me To The Riot
Elevator Love Letter
Ageless Beauty
One More Night
Calendar Girl

Second Encore

Barricade (I think)


Phil H 12 May 2010 at 06:36  

I highly enjoyed the entire show. Even Torquil's DJ'ing efforts prior to them going on was at least amusing.

Upon first listen, the new album sounds quite accessible, albeit a slight change in style. I can't wait to be able to play it on an endless loop.

Anonymous,  12 May 2010 at 14:16  

could've done without the DJing. If they say a show is going to start at 8, then they should make an effort to start at least within that hour. I would've shown up later had I known.

that said the show was really good (when it did eventually start)

Anonymous,  12 May 2010 at 14:52  

really like that top photo of torqy.

Rieds 14 May 2010 at 11:29  

re: If they say a show is going to start at 8, then they should make an effort to start at least within that hour.

I'm surprised when any band at the pyramid goes on stage before midnight. :P

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