Concert Review: Stars @ Sound Control – Manchester

deserve to be better known. In fact they deserve to be huge and based on tonight’s performance, folk are really missing out on this dynamic six piece from Montreal. Arcade Fire amongst others certainly seem to have stolen the limelight when it comes to Canadian bands that have travelled successfully over the pond. Despite a steady stream of critically lauded albums that began almost fifteen years ago, along with a seemingly perpetual touring schedule, Stars have returned to Manchester to perform on the same stage they graced two years previous. Considering their latest album No One is Lost is their strongest yet, it seems such a shame that they are yet to perform their eccentric blend of electro-indie-pop to a larger fan base who would adore them if they only knew they existed. Certainly, this seems to be the gist of lead singer Torquil Campbell’s outburst as he proclaimed his love for the city of Manchester and the hardcore following present at Sound Control tonight.

The night is certainly an exclusive North West celebration of their triumphant return following the October release of No One is Lost. A large setlist is complimented by eight tracks from the album and why not; it is certainly a release worth celebrating and the band appear to have found a distinctive style and energy on record, which the show channels to the delight of the partisan audience.

The gig begins subtly with album opener From the Night, and the track demonstrates the band’s dynamic immediately, particularly when the immensely catchy chorus kicks in and Torquil is joined by the enigmatic Amy Millan on vocal duties. The pair compliment each other brilliantly throughout, occasionally allowing the other to take the limelight but always returning to mutually create the wonderfully complimentary harmonies the duo are so good at. The track demonstrates the synth-heavy shift that the new album represents for the band, but Ageless Beauty quickly follows reminding us how damn catchy their more guitar-driven material can really be, as well as the album that it comes from, Set Yourself on Fire. The focus is really on the new material tonight though and Turn it Up is a slightly melancholy duet which demonstrates Amy’s hypnotic stage presence, her movements appearing to be controlled by strings operated by the shifting tones of the song. The identity of the band certainly manifests itself in these two charismatic performers and as the show develops, so do their characters.

The energetic This is the Last Time possesses the spirt of Blondie in it’s delivery and attitude, whilst Torquil appears possessed by his energy during the operatic Trap Door, which is a particular highlight of the show. Tracks like this demonstrate the passionate appeal of the band. Influences are proudly worn on sleeves and Torquil, chameleon-like, somehow manages to visually morph into those he professes to love so much including Morrissey and Bernard Sumner but also, perhaps surprisingly, John Lydon and the disco element of the show is certainly offset by an energetic, unpredictable punk ingredient. This seems to result in the show losing some of the musical complexities apparent on the record but it actually contributes to quite an exhilarating combination of songs, which peaks with a glorious combination of old and new as the show concludes with Your Ex-Lover is Dead, Are you Okay and the Madonna-esque disco beats of No One is Lost, which allows the rest of the band to demonstrate how indispensable they are to Stars. Only one thing was missing from a perfect start to 2015 and that was What is to be Done.

A one song encore is a fine way to finish when it happens to be the most atmospheric song off the album and it was performed to perfection with Torquil and Amy enjoying an opportunity to add some heartfelt pathos to the show after the more disco-heavy material that preceded it. After it’s conclusion the band experienced an outpouring of affection that continued after their departure from the stage. This was a great start to the gigging year and it was fabulous to experience a band expressing themselves freely to an audience that truly appreciated them.

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Review by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto

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