Stars – 9:30 Club, Washington DC 11/13/2014 (SHOW REVIEW)

When it comes to turning the angst and energy of an album into performance magic, Stars is matchless.

Simply put, if you have the opportunity to see them in concert, don’t pass it up. Their packed show Thursday, November 13th at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC was heavy on pomp and circumstance, feeling more like a celebration than a performance. Known for their buoyant, bombastic synth and audio, their live show is a journey into heavy fog and laser lights illuminated by heavy bass and provocative vocals.

Infused by the energy from the crowd, they kicked off their set with their recent single “From The Night,” off of new album No One Is Lost, initiating what grew quickly into a mass dance-party. Though they mixed a number of the catchier songs from No One Is Lost, like “You Keep Coming Up” and “This Is The Last Time” with older tracks such as “The Ghost of Genova Heights” and “Elevator Love Letter,” it was the true strength and growth of their musical catalogue and progression of their sound that was evident. This band sounds like headliners, though they feel every bit as accessible as those leading up to them.

That seems to be the vein running through Stars’ albums and performances; acknowledgment of our shared humanity and experiences bringing us closer, not setting us apart, even as musician and audience.

Stars 1

Stars 2

They paid homage to DC, and most especially the 9:30 club, which they dubbed “the best fucking club in the whole world,” remarking how they always feel respected and treated well in DC, especially by the music scene.

Frontman Torquil Campbell and other lead vocalist Amy Millan’s on stage relationship and performance styles are every bit as intimate and hauntingly seductive as they are on their albums. You’d swear they were a married couple navigating a late night lover’s-quarrel through these songs, if you didn’t know better. Most notably, time and again, they exude a palpable graciousness towards their fans and a downright electric vibe that resonates between the two, lifting the audience up and carrying them on a journey through albums, emotions, and catharsis.

This band doesn’t just excite you with their energy and laser-lit technics, they bring you to life. Their performance bridges the gulf between the singular/solitary act of enjoying their music as audio alone and the experience of “the moment” they want to envelope you in. Where so much of their music is a provocation towards authenticity and boldness fueled by introspection, their live expression is more a celebration of the night; of congregational and conglomerate joy, and acts lived in light of our mortality.

The latter part of their set was filled with crowd favorites like “One More Night,” “Take Me To The Riot,” and perhaps their best known and beloved track, “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” which the audience ended up singing acapella, as Millan’s microphone malfunctioned. The charming part of that moment was how she stopped her own singing, not even noticing that her mic wasn’t working beforehand, and stood smiling and listening to fans as they sang it back. It wasn’t until Campbell nudged her and let her know that she scurried for a replacement. They ended the night every bit as energetically as they started, sending their fans off with “No One Is Lost.”

As someone who saw them open for Death Cab For Cutie ten years ago this month, its is refreshing to see their catalogue, their style, and their sound have deepened and grown richer, while their sense of appreciation and joy is every bit as noticeable as when they were an opening band glad to be along for the ride.

Stars3 Stars4


From The Night
Ageless Beauty
We Don’t Want Your Body
Turn It Up
You Keep Coming Up
The Ghost of Genova Heights
This is the Last Time
Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It
Look Away
Dead Hearts
Going, Going, Gone
Trap Door
One More Night (Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead)
Elevator Love Letter
Take Me to the Riot
Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
Are You OK?
No One is Lost

No Better Place
What Is to Be Done?

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