Starry night

Canadian sweethearts Stars drew crowds by illuminating Sydenham Street United Church on Wednesday night at their sold-out show

Stars got bodies swaying by enveloping attendees in tracks off their latest record The Five Ghosts at their show with Young Galaxy on Wednesday night.
Stars got bodies swaying by enveloping attendees in tracks off their latest record The Five Ghosts at their show with Young Galaxy on Wednesday night.

Anticipation filled the air as I lined up in the brisk autumn evening, leaves littering the grounds of Sydenham Street United Church. It was the ideal setting for the eclectic, indie pop sound of Stars. Although the stars weren’t yet out, I knew it wouldn’t be long.

What seemed to be on everyone’s minds, in addition to high expectations of Stars, was the nature of the venue, a church constructed in the mid-19th century. As we were being ushered into the ancient building, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Never having seen the interior before, I was pleasantly surprised to find a decently sized room, lined with pews and opening up into a towering cathedral-esque alcove behind the stage. To my delight, it almost felt like Massey Hall.

Even more peculiar was the pre-concert music filling the sanctuary as fans filed in, which sounded like “1960s Doo-Wop” according to the guy beside me. Nevertheless, it proved to set the tone for the fun and “classy” evening to follow.

Opening for Stars was indie-pop act Young Galaxy, proving to display a lively, yet relaxed performance. Although I prefer bands with more members, female vocalist Catherine McCandless provided enough energy for all four musicians, wielding a tambourine and dancing behind her mic. Each boasted classy attire, and although lead singer-guitar player Stephen Ramsay’s sweater seemed slightly out of place, I don’t like to be picky.

Musically, the group had it together, with powerful harmonies and instrumentals that truly captured their obvious enjoyment. Yet somehow the audience remained detached, with the exception of a few grooving heads and the occasional dancer in the balcony. I truly felt like a spectator in church, listening to the preacher proclaim their message of salvation; McCandless’ message was indeed captivating, but was no doubt lost, or at least brushed off, by most.

Nevertheless, the announcement that they would be releasing a new record in spring of next year was met with a hearty applause. Apart from not playing “Come and See,” a personal favorite, they provided a grand introduction for the act we had all been eagerly awaiting.

It was a true spectacle. As Stars took the stage with lights dimmed, pads and synth created the foundation for the driving sound we all adored. Frontman Torquil Campbell ushered fans to crowd the foot of the stage, much to their enjoyment. Interesting to note, however, was that fans were told just 10 minutes before to clear the area due to it being a fire hazard. Quite rebelliously, Campbell invited fans to stand on the pews claiming, “they won’t mind, the United Church loves everybody.”

Regardless of the controversy, Campbell was a predominant part of the show, producing a handheld spotlight and surveying the crowd during a lengthy, ethereal interlude. Revealing a stage covered with roses, many of which were thrown to the crowd, it appeared that he was “searching for ghosts,” mirroring the theme from their latest concept album The Five Ghosts.

The performance was definitely a memorable one, using the church to facilitate the sadness and mystery of this new release. Most notably during the tune “Dead Hearts,” Campbell could be found staring wide-eyed off into the rafters between his emotionally-charged lyrics; he is a storyteller, and a very convincing one at that.

Accomplice Amy Millan impressed the crowd during an acoustic version of “Ageless Beauty,” as well as a politically-moving encore performance of “Celebration Guns.” Crowd favorites were no doubt “Take Me to the Riot” in which Campbell walked off the stage and down the aisle, as well as popular anthem “Your Ex-Lover is Dead.”

The musicians’ smooth, energetic act was accompanied by their to-be-expected indie garb. A diverse array of instruments from saxophone to keyboard harmonica, resulted in a unique visual display when tasteful lights created shadows playing upon the walls behind them.

When the show was over, I was left feeling more than satisfied. Not only was the music beyond the quality of their albums, but the electrically-charged atmosphere that their performance created truly landed the experience among the stars.

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