Between his DJ gig to kick off the evening and the two separate sets he played with Stars, frontman Torquil Campbell was on stage for nearly three hours, but he didn't seem to tire. As people filtered in the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night (6/4), Campbell, billed as "Dead Child Star", selected a number of 80s tunes, delivered an impromptu lecture on Hall and Oates, and occasionally sung along to the songs he chose when the mood struck him.
Following his DJ set, Campbell took a brief respite back stage, and the anticipation in the crowd grew. There was no opening band - at least not in the conventional sense. Instead, Stars played two sets. For the first, they showcased their upcoming album in its entirety. In typical Stars fashion, The Five Ghosts is an album full of somber but danceable numbers for the brokenhearted. Things like shadows, ghosts, dead leaves, and uneasy souls haunt their lyrics. Just take a look at the ghoulish song titles below to get a taste of the pervading tone, and picture Stars performing in front of two gigantic banners depicting what appeared to be dancing spectres covered in shrouds.
But their songs are not tunes tailor-made for the dead and heartless. As on their previous albums, sexual tension permeates their music and really brings it to life. Though it would be hard to top their sexy (and disturbing) hit "One More Night (Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead)," seeing Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan sing the line, "I don't want your body" back and forth to each other with their faces mere inches apart was pretty hot.
Throughout the evening, Campbell referred to Brooklyn with a touch of nostalgia. Before they built up a reputation for themselves in Montreal, the band allegedly spent some time in New York. "You know," Campbell said, "Stars started here in Williamsburg in 1997... but walking around today, I thought I was on acid. Things are so different. But we're honored to be part of the community again."
The audience, equally appreciative, listened to the new songs with rapt attention, prompting Millan to say, "You guys are doing great. Look at you. Who says the whole country has ADD? You don't!"
Following the conclusion of The Five Ghosts' eleven songs, Campbell expressed his delight that their experiment had worked, and the group took a short break while some Motown played in the background.
By the time Stars returned, white roses had been wrapped around the mic stands and placed throughout the stage. "Give it up for the opening band! Stars!" Campbell exclaimed playfully as he took to the stage for the third time of the evening.
From the opening notes on the melodica of "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," (from 2005's Set Yourself on Fire), the energy level in the room spiked. Drummer Pat McGee conducted the crowd in an early sing-a-long, and Campbell threw handfuls of white rose petals into the crowd as the song concluded.
The songs for the second set were determined entirely based on online votes before the show from fans, which made for a pretty dynamic show. Apparently, New York was the only city that had voted on "A Thread Cut with a Carving Knife," which appropriately features a "hot and sultry" afternoon in June (and of course, an ending love affair).
Between the additional songs about love and death and the constant scattering of roses, it was quite a romantic evening. And yes, the Canadian five-piece totally closed on "One More Night," which was pretty hot ... even if the song is "literally about fucking someone to death" as Campbell unabashedly reminded the crowd. By the time they concluded their second set, only the rose adorning Millan's mic stand remained on stage. The rest were thrown into the crowd throughout the evening and either thrived in the hands of fans or lied abandoned on the floor, beneath feet and empty plastic cups.
The Music Hall of Williamsburg show was the first of two NYC concerts Stars performed over the weekend (part of a larger tour). The next was Saturday night at Le Poisson Rouge. More pictures and the setlist from Music Hall, below...
1st set - The entirety of The Five Ghosts (officially out 6/22)
I Died So I Could Haunt You
We Don't Want Your Body
He Dreams He's Awake
The Last Song Ever Written
How Much More
Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
Take Me to the Riot
Set Yourself on Fire
A Thread Cut with a Carving Knife
Elevator Love Letter
On Peak Hill
One More Night (Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead)