A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Wrapup: Stars @ Metropolis 12/4/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Monday December 6, 2010

The last time I saw Stars was this past summer at Osheaga, and I was so disappointed by their performance that I was all but ready to give up on seeing them live again (this was my 4th Stars show). Thankfully, I was encouraged to give them another shot, as they definitely earned redemption on Saturday night.

The show was opened by Montreal’s Young Galaxy who put on a good performance, albeit a little bland. I think their energy would have translated better at a smaller venue. Interestingly, vocalist Catherine McCandless was the first of two pregnant women to perform (Amy Millan, Stars’ lead singer, is also pregnant). Not everyday you see that…

I got there early and scored an amazing spot – directly behind the sound board, elevated at least a foot above the rest of the crowd. Pretty much dead center, and with a clear view of the entire stage. It’s become a little cumbersome to carry an SLR camera to every show I go to, so I just took my Lumix LX-3, with which I managed some decent shots:

Stars played a good portion of both their most recent release The Five Ghosts and their 2005 album Set Yourself On Fire, as well as a few songs from 2007′s In Our Bedroom After the War and 2003′s Heart. They even delved a little deeper, including the title track from their 2001 EP The Comeback and one from the 2008 EP Sad Robots. Needless to say, it was a wide-ranging setlist, impressive in the range and particularly in the performance.

Vocalist Torquil Campbell was back to his usual self, full of emotional energy, and theatrical without being cheesy. Towards the end of the show, he got so carried away with a bear hug that he tackled Young Galaxy’s Stephen Ramsay (out to perform a song with Stars) into the wings off stage. He seemed to be riding a pretty fierce high for most of the show, returned and enhanced by the enthusiastic crowd.

I had forgotten how Amy Millan’s voice is able to sound sweet and whispered at one moment and crisp and penetrating the next. I wish she were the lead singer of more rock bands so I could hear her sing more often. While she has released a couple of much softer solo albums, it’s the range she displays in Stars that really shines. Even through the densest bass, most piercing keys and distorted guitar, Amy’s voice is always there. Kudos to the sound guys on that too…

I have to assume that along with being their last show of 2010, this also might be their last show for a bit longer than that. As I mentioned, Amy Millan is pregnant, due in the spring of next year, and bassist Evan Cranley is the father. I’m sure it’s been done, but I don’t see them touring again for quite a while, at least with the same lineup. So I’m thankful I can say I was there for this one, and hope it wasn’t the last.

Comments Off

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Osheaga 2010 Wrapup: Stars

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday August 5, 2010

Stars are easily one of my five favorite bands. They’ve put on some of the best shows I’ve ever been to. And their live performances have made me love songs of theirs that I previously couldn’t stand listening to (The Ghost of Genova Heights comes to mind). So it’s fair to say that I had high expectations for their set at Osheaga – in their hometown.

Amy Millan of Stars @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as I’d hoped. We headed over to their stage about halfway through K’Naan’s set (he was playing on the other main stage) to stake out a good spot, which we got. Unlike the other bands that had been playing back-to-back on alternating main stages, Stars didn’t take the stage right after K’Naan ended. I could hear the seconds of unplayed music being wasted.

They came onstage to huge applause and threw out some of the roses tied all around the stage to the audience – a nice touch. Then it went quickly awry. As the first note was played, Torquil Campbell (1/2 of the lead singing duo with Amy Millan) began throwing what ended up being a half-set temper tantrum because the sound in his earphones was either completely broken or just way off.

Stars @ Osheaga 7/31/2010

No matter how justified he was, his attitude immediately turned me off of the music. I couldn’t help but cringe as he whipped the corded microphone around the stage, leaving mic stands, keyboards and stage crew on the ground in his wake. By the time he got over it, Stars did manage to really nail “Take Me To The Riot,” and “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” two of my favorites. So ultimately there was redemption, and Amy Millan sang as wonderfully as ever, but what I’ll remember most about that show is the attitude.

I’m planning on seeing Stars again in Montreal in December, and I’m hoping Torquil can leave the other stuff off stage and put on a performance that I know he and the rest of the band are capable of putting on.

note: all photos in this post are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.


Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Standout Albums: “A Balloon Called Moaning” by The Joy Formidable

Filed Under: Album Reviews
Written by Brendan
Wednesday June 16, 2010

The Joy Formidable - A Balloon Called MoaningDuring my weekly music search, I’m often annoyed at the amount of Arcade Fire references used to describe bands. Having had my mind (and ears) blown by the muscular, triumphant sounds and crushing decrescendos of The Arcade Fire at The Orpheum Theatre in May of ’07, I have no tolerance for it. It’s just not possible to make as much noise as them and still make it sound beautiful.

So I’m going to try my hardest not to be that cheap with my descriptions of The Joy Formidable‘s A Balloon Called Moaning, despite the obvious ease of such a comparison (see how I worked that in there, while at the same point dismissing it?). I’ll also try not to draw any simplistic connection between this album and Metric’s latest release, Fantasies, but know that I’m trying really hard.

The Joy Formidable are Ritzy Brian on vocals/guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on vocals/bass and Matt Thomas on drums – a London-based rock trio with serious sound. They’ve filled A Balloon Called Moaning with thrashing drums, driving guitar riffs and haunting vocals. I’m a sucker for accents – any accent will do, really – and The Joy Formidable don’t disappoint. Ritzy’s voice manages to shine through all of the sound, and on some songs – notably “The Last Drop” – almost serves as a sedative to offset the gushing energy of the music.

“9669″ is fairly stripped down compared to the other songs, and shows shades of a the theatrical male-female duet mastered by Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan of Stars. But you could almost miss the song entirely with such rich, powerful and emotionally charged music surrounding it.

It is definitely impossible to sit still while listening to this album. And I don’t run, but Rachel swears by A Balloon Called Moaning as a motivational jogging (soft j) companion. I guess my twitching, tapping feet and nodding head would tend to agree with the sentiment.

I highly recommend this album, and think you’ll find yourself turning it up and bobbing along with me in no time.

Check out the official video for their tune “Austere” from A Balloon Called Moaning:

Comments Off

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.