Friday night’s was pretty busy (Gallery Night, etc.), which probably accounted for the Pabst Theater, three-fourths filled, at the Stars show. For some reason that made me feel bad — not only were many Milwaukeeans missing out on one of the best bands in the world, but I also have this crazy, possessive, protective feeling for Stars.
Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan
The Canadian band’s music has been such a huge part of my life — breakups, first dates, dreams — that I wanted their first impression of Milwaukee to be awesome.
I didn’t have to worry. Torquil Campbell, the loquacious vocalist, was indubitably awed by Pabst Theater. It was magic, he declared. His actress-mother acted on that same stage, in a touring theater in 1964. It was one of the most magical rooms the band had ever played in, he added.
He and the rest of his band then proceeded to spill their guts onstage, song after song after song. It was impressive: watching the smooth, apple juice voices of both Amy Millan and Campbell intertwine without being cloying. Seeing them move onstage, playingÂ melodicas, flutes, harmonicas, trumpets, throwing flowers and dancing.
There was a weird pomp to the whole set-up; the stage filled with roses, Millan’s prim, office secretary outfit, the Broadway-like gestures, and the way Campbell exhorted everyone to “get up, this is a dance party,” and the audience following suit, not sitting down for the whole show.
There was no danger of the grand gestures getting in the way of touching the audience emotionally, either. Campbell and co. saw a Milwaukee crowd on their feet, dancing non-stop. Milwaukee saw the exuberant lead singer jump into the crowd and take the riot to the aisles, so to speak.
Torquil Campbell jumps into the crowd
Amy Millan watches from the stage, laughing
Stars. Oh so awesome.
Renditions of songs like “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” were super quiet and gentle, yet at the same time exploded with energy. Enhanced by the beautiful, majestic Pabst Theater, Stars played for an hour-and-a-half, then came back for a 20-minute encore.
“If you guys want us here, we don’t really want to leave either,” Campbell said. By the time he was singing “Calendar Girl’s” optimistic “I’m alive” lyrics into the crowd, I was taken by the magic too.
He was singing so loud that he had left the mic on the ground, veins popping out of his neck. Tears sprung into my eyes. It didn’t matter that I’d seen him do this before, at a show in Los Angeles.
It was a given that Campbell and the rest of Stars are the masters of the pop love songs. So they know exactly which notes to hit and which heartstrings to tug. So what? I was alive.
Set list: 1. The Night Starts Here
2. Elevator Love Letter
3. Soft Revolution ("Dedicated to Barack Obama")
4. Window Bird
5. One More Night
6. The Ghost of Genova Heights
7. Bitches in Tokyo
8. Set Yourself on Fire
9. Look Up
11. Going, Going, Gone
12. Midnight Coward
13. What I'm Trying To Say
14. Your Ex-Lover is Dead
15. Ageless Beauty
16. In Our Bedroom after the War
17. Take me to the Riot
18. My Favourite Book
19. Calendar Girl
20. The WoodsÂ
P.S. The opening band, the 1900s, were sweet too, and would definitely pass the mix tape test.