Way back in August when I bought tickets to Stars I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I loved their last release, Set Yourself On Fire, I'm enjoying Amy Millan's solo album, Honey From The Tombs (and her performance at the Folk festival) and I'm a fan of the Broken Social Scene (Amy is in that as well). Stars has been to Winnipeg a few times before, but I never have seen them live. When I got the tickets I wasn't aware they would be touring behind a new album, In Our Bedroom After The War , which they eventually released in September. They had it available for legal download on their website four days after the completion of the album on July 10. I managed to listen to the album in late August and since then it has stuck around on my iPod still to this day, it's that good! I was anxious to hear the new material (and the older) in a live setting, so Saturday's show was much anticipated.
When Sumi and I arrived at the Burton Cummings Theatre, it was 10 minutes to eight and the doors weren't open yet and there was a long lineup down Smith street to Ellice. I thought the show started at eight, not the doors, apparently we weren't in the minority. I pity the people that waited in the falling snow for the last hour. Once inside after finding our seats, a long 30 minute wait in the merch-table line gave us something to do until the opening band . If the Burt was ever planning any renovations, the lobby would be a great place to start...it's way too crowded.
The openers were Miracle Fortress from Montreal who have a similar guy singer/girl guitar player, bass and keyboard band makeup, like Stars. The main difference being Miracle Fortress had duo percussionists which sometimes seemed to overpower the mix and made it difficult to understand the vocals. They didn't exactly excite me, but toward the end of their set I started to warm to them, if only slightly.
When the lights went down for Stars, everyone of the floor stood. The front of the stage was already crowded with teenage girls waving their camera phones in anticipation and the fog machine was spewing out layers of misty...fog! This was good because everyone in front of us in direct line of the stage left their seats to stand up front, it gave us a clear unobstructed view of the stage. During the first song, Take Me To The Riot, the back spotlights frantically panned up and down floor to ceiling and flashing blue light in our faces, creating an exciting frantic start to the show. The lights were crucial in creating atmosphere and mood throughout the show, it give it a very noir-like setting creating brilliant silhouette images and generated a welcoming feeling when the stage was flooded with warm pinks, purples and blue light. The elaborate stage setup was decorated with illuminated framed pictures and numerous vases of flowers that emulated a living room, or possibly a bedroom. Throughout the show, band members tossed flowers into the crowd.
They played a nice mix of songs from their new album and favourites from previous releases, the older songs had a renewed energy to them live and with during the songs from the new album, the band sounded fresh and enthusiastic to show off their new material. I was initially drawn to the band for Amy Millan's beautiful voice and the songs she sang, but live I developed an appreciation for co-front person, Torquil Campbell's compassionate heartfelt vocals. Torquil provides the spark and energy for the band, in contrast to Amy's somber stage persona, he doubled on keyboards and trumpet and he provided a highlight moment when he wandered off-stage and came back in a lighted suit. He looked like a lit up Christmas tree sauntering around the stage. Torquil thanked the audience for coming to the show and he sincerely appreciated the support and warmth he felt from Winnipeg...except when he goofed and said, "hope your team wins the Super Bowl tomorrow".
The band played 21 songs in just over an hour and a half which included a 4 song encore. I thought the show was everything a concert should be: visually pleasing stage show, tremendously tight performances, enthusiastic, but not crazy crowd, I was able to see the band clearly and up close (row 6 floor!), and the sound was decent (a little muddled at first, but it improved). Though Indie groups like Stars, BSS, and Feist seem to have a more dedicated following in Europe, this week they play Toronto for 4 nights and 2 dates in Montreal before heading off to Europe, so they probably won't tour Canada again until next year. If you have a chance to catch Stars in the future, see them!!
(If you have any photos from the Winnipeg show, please let me know so I can replace these photos from a past show on the tour).
I'm posting some of the highlights from the concert, about half the songs they played. I've posted the entire concert on Dimeadozen and if you want a copy, let me know. (note: I don't think I'll be able to post FLAC files as it'll take my file storage archive way too long to upload...sorry).
STARS Burton Cummings Theatre Winnipeg, MB November 24, 2007
A few weeks ago I received an interesting message on Dimeadozen (where I have an account), someone saw I posted the New Pornographers show from Calgary and he was wondering if I can help him out. He was looking for someone to record the Billy Joel concert in Calgary and Edmonton on November 3rd and 5th because he was would be away during those dates, he was willing to buy tickets for me to attend the shows. First of all, I don't live in Alberta and I live 1,000 miles way and if he wanted me to tape it he would have to fly me out there, plus the Edmonton show was the day after I received the message. I replyed back with those concerns and he responded by saying if the price of the flight wasn't too bad, he would be willing to cover my expenses. I kind of hemmed and hawed mainly in disbelief, would someone seriously fly me to another city to tape a band? I quickly searched for flights and hotels to Calgary, as the Edmonton show was less than 24 hours away (didn't think they would let me take off Saturday from work on a couple hours notice) and forwarded the prices of my anticipated expenses. In the end I didn't get a followup reply as he may have been too freaked out by the price, though it probably still would cost more for a floor ticket to Bon Jovi or Celine Dion. The point of this story is how far are people willing to go or pay to see and hear their favourite performers? I have gone to Minneapolis (8 hour drive) to see bands on many occasions, but I have never flown anywhere just for a concert. I now don't go anywhere without my mini-disc recorder and mics. With that in mind I would have loved to have gone to Seattle last weekend to see a reunion show from the Young Fresh Fellows or to Pittsburgh for the Break-Up Society's CD release with special guests..a reunited Frampton Brothers. (note: YFF's and FB's are my two favourite bands) I would have paid big time to see either one of those concerts and I'm hoping some audio recordings surface. I did find video of the YFF's show on a site called Synchronicity (you'll have to register) which has complete live concerts by mainly obscure bands. The Tripwires set from the same night is also up.
In the upcoming months there are of couple of concerts I have tickets for, I plan to tape those shows, but I'm also considering some other shows if I have the time. If anyone has any suggestions or requests I might be convinced to attend certain shows with appropriate incentives such as complimentary tickets etc.
STARS November 24, 2007- Burton Cummings Theatre (going!)
In anticipation of the Stars show in Winnipeg next week, I'm posting a recent radio performance by the band when they were in California during their West Coast leg of their North American tour. They stopped by the KCRW studios in Santa Monica and played songs from their new album for Morning Becomes Eclectic with host Nic Harcourt.
The uncompressed torrent is available at dimeadozen (for registered members) and the stream of the program can be found on the KCRW website so you can listen and watch the video of the entire show. If you don't have the new album, In Our Bedroom After The War you can stream the whole thing at the band's MySpace site.
I'm posting mp3's of the songs only (minus the interview portion). Please don't distribute these compressed files, listen and enjoy! I'll be recording the Winnipeg show for future postings, so let me know if you're interested.
Stars KCRW "Morning Becomes Eclectic"Santa Monica, CA aired November 12, 2007
One of the greatest debut albums of the 70's was released 3o years ago and it was performed in it's entirety from top to bottom with the original arrangements and with most of the original musicians that played on the album.
On November 8th at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, Elvis Costello and the members of Clover recreated My Aim Is True, which they recorded together in 1977. This is the first time they have performed the album together live (Elvis explains this between songs) since the studio recording over 30 years ago. Clover was Elvis's backup band for the recording sessions. This one-time-only performance was a magical moment that must of been amazing to have witnessed, if I could have been anywhere in the world last Thurday, it would have been the Great American Music Hall. Elvis's first album opened my eyes to some incredible music that also opened the doors to some great new wave/pub rock bands such as Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, Dave Edmunds, Brinsley Schwarz, The Motors and Ducks Deluxe. The second set of the show consisted of songs written before 1977, either solo or with different combinations of Clover, all rare gems!