Stars and Milo Greene
First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN. March 26, 2013
- The Theory of Relativity
- A Song Is a Weapon
- The North
- We Don’t Want Your Body
- Personal Wishful
- Soft Revolution
- Krush Elevator
- Love Song
- The Loose Ends Will Make Knots
- Dead Hearts
- Midnight Coward
- What I’m Trying to Say Hold On When You
- Get Love and Let Go When You Give It
- Take Me to the Riot Walls
- Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
- The 400
As the dust settles from the Canadian indie revolution of the early-mid 2000’s (Broken Social Scene, Stars, Metric) we’re left with a few smoldering remnants and some fine back catalogs. I always liked Stars the best back then. Mostly because ‘Elevator Love Letter’ (played at this show) was the perfect pop track of 2003 that 98% of the world probably never heard unless you lived near Toronto or had your ears pinned to something streaming indie pop. It was vibrant pop at its best with a perfect chorus and an epic sing-along fade away during the final minute that made it one of the great singles from that year and the most exuberant, crossover track of Stars’ now 13-year career. As the crowds have gotten slightly larger the sound remains about the same; innocuous but well-thought out blended, buoyant, pure indie pop that doesn’t change too much. It’s still music to our loyal ears and compelling enough to watch live as Stars makes their annual trip to the upper midwest. As the back channels of indie have gone mostly lo-fi, Stars has dug in their heels. Their albums don’t differentiate themselves too much. They’re the benefactors of a wonderful boy/girl lead singing duo that most bands would die for. As Torquil Campbell’s amazing if-Rick-Astley-had-been-cool voice slices away on one side, Amy Millan’s innocent sweetness blends in from the other. Together, they can sound terrific. On record they provide the perfect counterpoint with each other, never wearing out the listener before the other voice slides in. There’s no better example of this than the aforementioned ‘Elevator Love Letter’ where they exchanged verses as the melody bounced along behind.
But performing at First Avenue comes with it the need for a bands true ‘A’ game and Tuesday night didn’t make me feel like the ‘A’ game was always there. The catalog, yes, the performance – well, not entirely. I’m unsure if it’s Millan’s seemingly lack of authentic energy or Campbell trying too hard to compensate for it. Campbell and Millan sounded genuinely gracious towards the audience all night. They easily filled a 90 minute set that could have been effortlessly extended another 30 minutes before reaching into the bands’s B-level material. I’m not sure if they were having an off-night or I was. Six months ago when I saw Metric around the corner at the State Theater Emily Haines was a one-person wrecking machine, lifting the band and the audience with material that was truly awesome. With an opening line about being as “fucked up as they say”, Haines never left any doubt. She’s still a crazed woman bursting with talent along with a band that still feels on the rise. But with Stars, I’m just hazy right now. There are bands the arrive at First Avenue to carry you away and bands that just kind of stop by. This was a “we’re stopping by moment”, even though Campbell tried to remind us very genuinely that wasn’t the case.
The Los Angeles band Milo Greene quite frankly nearly upstaged the main act on this night. Breezing through a beautiful set of tunes from their recent, outstanding album, Greene took a stranglehold on the audience for the duration of their set. Let’s just say they won’t be an opening act the next time they peruse through Minneapolis.