Saturday, February 02, 2008

London is truly a music lover's paradise. On Tuesday (January 29, 2008), I went to Koko in Mornington Crescent to catch Stars in concert. Stars is a Canadian indie band I stumbled across one day while watching The O.C. which used Your Ex-Lover is Dead, one of the band's biggest hits off Set Yourself on Fire, as the soundtrack to one of the episodes before the television series went well and truly down the toilet.

Above: Audience - Circle Level - Koko

While I do not doubt that there were others in the audience whose introduction to Stars was the same as mine, there were clearly more than a few diehard fans and indie heads in the capacity crowd (as evidenced by their distinct style of dress which indie heads prefer, usually involving Crafty Couture hoodies and T-shirts from Realitee or Threadless, all of which are brands which have a presence in my wardrobe, I must confess). The woman standing near me, for instance, told the potentially gay short bespectacled geeky boy in front of me that she'd been to all of Stars' concerts before this, including their two previous shows somewhere else in the country. I mention the potentially gay short bespectacled geeky boy only because he later commented that he didn't like tall, thin geeky guys, a comment which caught my attention because tall and thin does appear to be the demographic that I tend to go for, and also because he was short.

Above: Apostle of Hustle

In any case, I arrived at the venue at 8.30 pm, after having had my emergency banana confiscated by the doorman. The second supporting band of the night, Apostle of Hustle, Stars' label-mates, had already started playing. I wasn't too fond of their sound. I felt the lead singer of the trio couldn't really sing, and that they were more likely than not to achieve fame through their quirkiness as opposed to genuine talent; for instance, the lead was dressed in a white boiler suit sans helmet and played a song which involved him blindfolding himself, getting up on a wooden block and jumping back down to the stage.

After Apostle of Hustle finished their set at around 9 pm, we waited half an hour for Stars to come on. During that half hour, I began to appreciate the benefits of attending a concert with someone else. For example, Koko is an all-standing venue. As I had arrived fairly late, I had to go up to the circle area and attempt to find a spot where I could see the stage. Not an easy task given my relative shortness. And once I got a spot, I wasn't able to leave the spot for fear of losing it to someone else, which also explains my general reluctance to drink more than one drink at any concert I go to. In this case, I couldn't even get a drink, because I could see people in similar predicaments likewise looking for spots. Although I must say that given that I was by myself, I was able to squeeze myself into a space which most likely would not have been able to accommodate a couple or more.

Above: Stage - Koko

Anyway, during the interval, I noticed the stage had been set up very nicely. There were bunches of flowers set up on one side of the stage, and a lot of interesting Louis Tiffany-esque lamps all over the stage. As it turned out, during Stars' set, various members of the band threw flowers into the crowd as a gesture of thanks for all of their support. Rather cute, and I suppose there must have been some jostling by members of the audience in the stalls in an attempt to get one.

Soon enough, Stars came on and opened with Ageless Beauty, a song off Set Yourself On Fire which was clearly a favourite with the crowd. Though the main focus was on their latest album, In The Bedroom After The War, their set covered the full range of their repertoire, including Reunion, Midnight Coward and Take Me To The Riot.

Above: Stars

On their MySpace page, Stars describe their music as "melodramatic popular songs." It's not an inaccurate description; their songs, as far as I know, seem to be all about broken relationships and domestic violence. Still, because of the composition of the band - it has two main singers, Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan - their songs work particularly well live, as both their voices combine to great effect in call-and-response type songs such as Your Ex-Lover Is Dead.

Above: Stars

The one thing I tend to look for when I go to concerts is the amount of interaction the band has with the audience. There're musicians who don't interact with the audience at all, like The Cure, and those who talk a little too much, like Lea Salonga. In my mind, Stars managed to achieve the right balance. As with Club 8, Stars was initially a little reticent when they came on, but after a few songs, Torquil yelled to an enthusiastic crowd, "You know, I think this might be one of the reasons we love London so much!" and towards the end of the show, "We've been playing London for a long time... probably before some of you guys started masturbating!" in response to Amy's comment about The Purple Turtle, a bar right across the street which Stars had played in a few years ago.

Stars ended the night on a high note with After The War off their latest album, which sounded amazing with the pseudo-orchestral melody working wonderfully with the acoustics of the concert hall. It sounded rousing and almost anthemic. The crowd clearly loved it. Stars then came back for the customary encore and played two songs, The Night Starts Here with Apostle of Hustle returning to accompany them and the other, "a song about trying to f*** your lover to death" (Torquil so quaintly put it) which turned out to be One More Night (Your Ex-Lover Remains Dead).

Above: Shiny Disco Ball - Koko

All in all, it was a good night. It was heartening to see the amount of people who had turned up to catch the band (I definitely had not expected to see ticket touts outside the venue) and it was definitely refreshing to catch a band not yet jaded from the many years in the business, and who seem on the cusp of achieving greater things.

Related Links
Stars - MySpace
There Goes the Fear: Review of Stars at Koko
Paste Magazine: Review of Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War
Download: The Night Starts Here from City Slang

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