Northern Lights

I’m beginning to think that Canadians have some innate fear of traveling in small numbers. These suspicions arise from seeing many touring bands on their visits to us from the great white north over the years and never counting less than six heads, usually with accompanying strange hair cuts. Stars actually exceed these qualifications for bands from the north and are comprised, at certain times, of eight musicians, none having a worse hair cut than the drummer (think Sloth from the "Goonies").

Unlike many of their Canuk cohorts, Stars are content with making straightforward pop music. The dual male/female vocals are in perfect harmony and Amy Milan’s voice, as a friend remarked, sounds completely effortless and natural. On stage, the energy of the more upbeat songs was intensified by the band’s quirky movements and posing. I thought Amy was actually having a seizure at one point, but I guess it was just the spirit of pop speaking through her. Backstage, I snuck a peek at the violinist doing something very similar to the Roger Rabbit, and I loved it. You could tell she was completely uninhibited and, so she thought, invisible to the crowd. This rapturous wave of euphoria apparently spread through the audience and manifested in the form of more embarrassing dance moves. One highly spiritual young man decided to share his elation with the rest of the crowd and bravely shook his stuff on stage for almost an entire song. Stars seemed slightly amused, slightly peeved and didn’t know exactly what to do about this newfound enthusiasm. After asking the young man to enjoy himself elsewhere and getting little response, security escorted him off stage and away from his only chance at stardom. I was actually pretty happy about this because it’s very difficult for me to watch people publicly humiliate themselves and I was beginning to think I’d have to see the rest of the show through my fingers.

Set Yourself on Fire, Stars’ third proper full length, is supposedly their most mature. It was recorded this winter, which is surprising given the warm, sunny sound it exudes. These songs translated very well live and lacked some of the noise the record contains. The result was a glistening, smooth performance that happens only when a band has spent a good deal of time together on the road, smelling one another’s body odor and trading back rubs. The crowd seemed to know that when the first set was done, another was on its way and I think it was this knowledge that stopped them from tearing the roof off the place. Seriously, everybody I’ve talked to this week about Stars has had nothing but adoration for them, and after this show I can see why. They might not make up for Canadians such as Bryan Adams or Celine Dion, but they come very close. I can now add them to the very large list of things Canadian have that I love: beer, nice people, igloos, beautiful women, elves, well-designed money, the French language, etc.