Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's a nuclear show and the stars are gone

I've never broken into Broken Social Scene, but I do like some of its associated acts including Stars, introduced to me by the lovely S.--. I got a ticket to see them at the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight and I was ultimately glad that I did, though it took me a while to warm up to the show.

Part of the difficulty stemmed from technical issues. Last time I went to MHW, to see the Hold Steady with I.--, I was nearly deafened. I have been to plenty of loud concerts but no others where my ears were still ringing the next morning. So I picked up a pair of the handy-dandy earplugs that MHW sells at the bar, which did the trick...sort of. They dampened the sound effectively but did not, of course, account for the woeful bass thump. I am not sure if all shows, or all MHW shows, are like this, but I couldn't hear a damned thing over the rattling in my bones from the amps. So I suffered--grantedly, in a non-deaf manner--through the opening band and some Stars songs I didn't know so well.

But when the ones I did know came on, I wound up ditching the earplugs for the rest of the show (which was not remotely as loud as the Hold Steady's in any event). Stars is one of those bands where I don't love or even like every song, but a few are really stunning. In particular, two of them run the full range of emotion for me. "Dead Hearts" always makes me want to cry; tonight's version, midway through the show, was no exception. Other songs--"We Don't Want Your Body," "One More Night" in the encore--were fun to rock out to. Amy Millan's voice can be truly eerie, which must help when you've most recently released an album about ghosts, including the haunting "Changes." And Torquil Campbell can hold a note with the best of them; his performance had me thinking of Stephin Merritt's glorious crescendoing conclusion to "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side."

"Changes," several songs into an encore, seemed like a high note to end on, but then Stars launched into "Elevator Love Letter," which has got to be one of the songs that fills me with the most joy--a perfect counterpoint to "Dead Hearts." I walked to the L humming the tune, not even minding the crush of hipsters and the latening hour.

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