Awestruck by the immortal musicians lining Fillmore Auditorium’s corridors, 25 weeks pregnant Stars female vocalist Amy Millan, glowing and beaming, dedicated the Stars’ Fillmore Auditorium performance to Jerry Garcia, who she’s sure is “still kicking it up there somewhere!” The eloquent, Montreal based indie pop group, shaking its fans from midweek stupor, would have had Jerry crying happy tears this November night.
“Time Can Never Kill The True Heart”, off Stars’ 2002 LP Heart, posts Millan’s velvety vocal against minimalist instrumentation and lyrics ridden with confusion, anxiety, and self-doubt, “One step closer to the sea wall / looking down, you can see all…one heart but the mind was in two / one half filled with the dreams of a saint / the other filled with nothing but hate.”
Torquil “Torq” Campbell, Stars’ front man, spun thrilling, heated groove on electronic “Set Yourself On Fire”, hurling white roses into the crowd as he belted with Broadway pomp: “In every single place that has ever, ever been / Hiroshima, Los Angeles and each town in between.”
Millan donned her tough, resilient persona to contrast vulnerable lyrics on “Bitches in Tokyo,” as she bets, ““All this sabotage you bring / well, I can't take it / 'cause I just want you back / I just want you back.” The brunette fixed her eyes on the crowd, shouting, “Where’d you put my heart, San Francisco?”
Campbell bantered on about the hardships of being Canadian, mostly regarding the difficulties of satisfying his marijuana hobby while on tour in America. “Free merch for anyone that gets Torq pot!” Millian teased. Fans looked toward each other, shifty eyed, ready to transact. “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” opening track off fan favorite Set Yourself On Fire, has the blonde front man weaving a tale of ill fated coincidence, “God that was strange to see you again / introduced by a friend of a friend / smiled and said ‘yes I think we've met before’ / in that instant it started to pour.” Millan countered, playing off her male counterpart, “This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin / tried to reach deep buy you couldn’t get in / now you’re outside me you see all the beauty / repent all your sins.” As fans erupted in frantic applause, Stars genuflected in respect to the “best club in the world, San Francisco, Fillmore!”
After confessing that he “assaults people with friendship in an attempt to get them to ignore his faults,” Torq Campbell launched into synth laden “Take Me To The Riot”, as chiming guitar met bombastic vocals and dramatic lyrics. Campbell pounded the mic with an infectious chorus, declaring a simultaneously soul pumping and anthemic, “Saturday nights in neon lights / Sunday in the cell / pills enough to make me feel ill / cash enough to make me well / take me, take me to the RIIIOOTTTTT!!!!” Holding his last note for an eternity across punctuating percussion, the male vocalist threw his arms in the air as girls greeted him with hysterical shrieks seldom heard outside of roller coasters. Torq, drenched, looked down at his soaked shirt and declared: “I’m sweating like Karl Rove in the Castro!”
When the time came, the crowd begged and pleaded for an encore. Echoes of “please come back” and “don’t leave us” filled the theatre. Suddenly, the auditorium went dark, and Ike Eisenhower’s iconic farewell address seeped through the speakers. Perhaps more apropos of Veterans Day than Stars –whose native flag has exactly one maple leaf and, ironically, zero stars -may have themselves have realized, the former military general admonished “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists.” Chillingly, the septuagenarian President cautions: “We should take nothing for granted.” The cardigan clad hipster stood agape, eyes wide: “So intense man, like Church!”
Stars claimed the floral stage once more, armed with a melodica and Torq’s death stare for “Celebration Gun.” A wall of bubbles blew off the stage, as Torquell Campbell and Amy Millan complemented tightly arranged, richly layered shoegaze guitars with scenes of destitution “desert wind and a perverse desire to win / history buried in shame,” and crippling realities “morning's papers, ink stains my fingers/ my hands grow darker everyday / are the beating drums / celebration guns?”