WASHINGTON, D.C.—Stars is a really weird band.
First, they’re incredibly organized. I’ve never seen the 9:30 Club stage look so clean; not only did each band member have their own designated spot on stage, but there was barely a wire in sight. I suppose after 15 years of touring, a band learns a thing or two about minimalism.
Second, they’ve got this killer throwback vibe going on. The band walked onstage to Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow.” The merch stand was full of vintage-looking t-shirts with rollerblades on them (do people even remember what rollerblades are?). Keyboardist Chris Seligman was rocking some eyewear Bono would be proud of. And of course, the backdrop behind the band was their Flashdance-era neon logo on the cover of their latest album, No One Is Lost.
Third, they’ve got some incredible synchronized unsynchronized dancing. It mostly consists of co-lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan doing something reminiscent of the Robot, but more like the way your parents would have done it in the ’80s at a Kraftwerk concert. In spite of that, it was still the most awkwardly endearing thing to ever grace my eyes.
These three aspects of Stars’ stage persona allowed them to give their D.C. fans a concert to remember. Kicking off the show with “From The Night,” the first single off of No One Is Lost, the band sent fans into a frenzy. Audience members from college-aged to middle-aged mouthed along to the lyrics and danced. They didn’t stop during the three-hour-long concert as Stars sifted through 13 years’ worth of songs.
In retrospect, Stars did a good job of mixing up their material, picking only the best tracks off of their five studio albums to play and frequently returning to fan favorites from 2004’s Set Yourself On Fire and 2010’s The Five Ghosts. They featured just enough of their new album without straying too far from the baroque pop classics that attracted their dedicated fanbase in the first place. This was evident during “Ageless Beauty” and “We Don’t Want Your Body,” which both showcased Stars’ upbeat and energetic feel as well as some erratic tambourining and an epic harpsichord solo. It is hard to believe that the band is comprised of moms and dads when Millan is shredding on an Epiphone guitar and Campbell is dancing like Ian Curtis in his white suit.
Though, as is the case for all long concerts, there was definitely a lull in the middle of the set. Perhaps older fans didn’t recognize new songs from No One Is Lost concentrated in one period, perhaps the songs were too slow for the audience’s taste at that point, perhaps it was the sleepy ’70s prom lighting, but “You Keep Coming Up” inaugurated the make-out time for bored couples. Concluding this time with “Look Away”—a song that’s supposed to come off as cute and heartfelt, but just felt sluggish after the fast songs at the beginning of the concert—Stars finally launched into The Five Ghosts’ “Dead Hearts.” Campbell and Millan sang with pure emotional charge and looked into each other’s eyes for the whole song. Not only was the ballad beautifully performed, but it felt fulfilling to see Campbell and Millan’s excellent stage chemistry at work in one of Stars’ most sentimental songs.
Segueing into the second half of the concert with poppier tracks like “Trap Door,” Stars lightened the mood only to dampen it with their parting song “What Is To Be Done?” Pretty and melodic, the song provided a good enough ending to the concert, but was nowhere near as fun as their planned closer “Are You OK?” But for fans who were still asking for more after “What Is To Be Done?,” Stars went above and beyond to deliver.