Proclaiming San Francisco as having the best crowds next to Toronto, the Montreal-based band Stars returned to our city to indulge fans for two nights. Last year during their U.S. tour, Stars performed at the Fillmore to promote its most recent album, “The North,” which came out in 2012. The album is filled with good vibes and more upbeat, synth-heavy songs in comparison to Stars’ previous albums. Co-lead vocalist Amy Millan describes the compilation as “playful, joyful, and hopeful.”
Stars has been making music for over 10 years, since its debut album “Nightsongs” was released in 2001. The five-piece band has accrued a cult following of multi-aged fans from around the world. Members Torquil Campbell, Amy Millan, Evan Cranley, Chris Seligman, and Patrick McGee have toured and worked with other notable Canadian bands like Metric and Broken Social Scene. For those who are familiar with those artists, you definitely want to check out Stars.
On Sept. 17, the day of the first show in San Francisco, I arrived at the Great American Music Hall thirty minutes before doors opened at 7 p.m. to interview Torquil Campbell, co-lead singer and songwriter of Stars. Although the interview could not take place, I was able to get a sense of what Stars was about from the fans who also arrived early. I met a woman from Germany, a man who drove down from Oregon, as well as a girl involved in a car accident earlier that day. Encountering fans with interesting journeys to see Stars already set the tone for the rest of the night: unpredictable and enthralling.
While waiting for the performance, I felt a sense of camaraderie amongst the crowd. Fans intermingled and talked about the many times they had seen Stars in concert, as well as the interactions and experiences they had had with its members. Before even seeing Stars perform, I could tell the band truly cared about its fans.
Stars began with “The Night Starts Here” from its 2011 album, “The Bedroom Demos.” The song introduces the soothing vocals of Millan, and the hypnotic rhythm and sounds produced by the guitars and keyboard synthesizer. The crowd was immediately placed in a dream-like state.
Stars fulfilled many fans’ fantasies and performed top hits from all its six albums. Campbell and Millan had the crowd singing along to every song – more specifically, their older, angsty songs like “We Don’t Want Your Body” and “Take Me To The Riot.” By the middle of their set, energies peaked within the crowd and band. In one song, drummer Pat McGee crowd surfed wearing the most eclectic outfit ever – an outerspace printed denim vest and jeans – to which Campbell called him “Galaxy Man.” As they performed songs from different albums, there were moments where they touched the audience emotionally with the lyrics and mellow guitar riffs. Other times, the audience was left dancing to their newer electro-pop songs.
Overall, Stars put on a solid show, with a total of over 20 songs. After performing for more than 10 years and raising families of their own, one would think the musicians would have slowed down by now. Nevertheless, Stars remains just as spirited as ever. If anything, I think it has gotten better, while maintaining a youthful sound even after the members have surpassed their 30s. Stars has proven to be a universal and timeless band, dedicated to its craft and fans.