I caught the Canadian indie rock band Stars play their second of two sold out shows at the West Village venue (le) poisson rouge. The group has called Montreal its home base for many years now, but they actually formed in NYC back in 2000, when they were regulars at clubs like East Village joints like Fez, and they came back to the city where it all began for a pair of special holiday shows as a love letter to their hardcore fans who avidly flocked to LPR with all their holiday cheer and love. They are presently on a run of shows down the East Coast including cities like Boston, Philly, Toronto, and Ottawa, and that is also helping heat up the gears for a new album that is in the works that will probably be out soon.
Originally English singer/songwriter Lloyd Cole was set to open, but had to cancel at the last minute, but instead Shamir kicked off the show with a set of engagingly sad country songs that embraced both Queer culture and modern politics as well as more traditional bluegrass and folk influences to produce a charismatically disarming performance. Shamir Bailey is an American singer, songwriter, and actor from Las Vegas, Nevada, and has been bending genres and views for the last several years, and it was great seeing this amazing songwriting talent stripped down in such a raw form.
Many in the audience had been following Stars through the mini tour, and you could hear the excitement of every song and they sang every word to through the whole set, no matter how obscure the songs and they did dig down for deep cuts in their set. To see the singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan play off each other’s leads is always an uplifting experience, and it being a very Holiday-themed show brought home the very loving family experience of this band and the heartwarming embracing of their audience and really filled the night with mountains of joy. Before they played “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” Millan repeatedly called it a “Yule Time,” while Campbell kept calling it a “Deep Cut Christams,” and the setlist was a aptly a burning gift that kept on giving as they played many gems from their 20 year history and 9 studio albums, but also dug deep into the gift back for some more obscure ditties. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Stars’ debut album Nightsongs, and they did play some songs from that like “Going, Going, Gone,” but they had far to much choice material to get stuck down to any one period of their very prolific career.
The stage was covered in Christmas glitz, with lots of shimmering metallic trees and glowing candy canes to complete the festive mood. They even played a cover of the Christmas-time classic “2000 Miles” by The Pretenders, just before playing a new song they called “The Pretenders” that Millan said was all about her first coming to NYC and being convinced to join the band by Campbell, who in turn described how he would literally steal from people so he could afford to get her in the band. There were so many little anecdotes and stories like that spread throughout the night, and it made every little corner of the lengthy setlist seem all that more personable and warm. They played some of their better-known tracks like “Dead Hearts” and “Calendar Girl,” but my favorite moments were songs like “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” and “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It.” They ended their set with a rousing sing-along version of the Pogues song and Yule-time favorite “Fairytale of New York” that really gave all the heartwarming Holiday feels.
Article/Images: Dean Keim