Water Street Music Hall brightened by Stars

On Wednesday Sept. 22 at Rochester's Water Street Music Hall, the Canadian indie-pop band Stars ignited the fuse of what will certainly be an explosive North American tour.

The crowd was young; a few dozen college kids and some young lovers littered the floor of the room. Though the crowd was sparse, excitement was written across the faces of all as they eagerly looked to claim a spot near the front of the stage.

A local band, Sports, opened the show and proved there was reason to pick up its EP in addition to the fact that it was free. Sports's aggressive brand of indie rock was balanced by the second opener's soothing soundscape. The Virginian band Wild Nothing, whose ambient guitar textures accented the vocals of singer Jack Tatum, brought their amusing quirks - and epic facial hair - to the stage.

By the time Sports and Wild Nothing finished their sets, the crowd had grown to about 100 restless college-aged attendees whose mounting excitement had finally begun to boil over. The stage grew black and a brief period of silence ensued before the silhouettes of Stars members Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell were lit up by an onslaught of backing lights.

The drums began to pound and so did Millan, throwing her fist into the air with each kick of the bass pedal. Campbell ran to the edge of the stage, his face no more than a few feet away from the audience, and shone his very own flashlight into the eyes of audience members, blinding them before grabbing the microphone.

The show took the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions that showcased many tunes from Stars' new album The Five Ghosts in addition to a few older favorites. Millan's delicate vocals held incredible power behind the songs, particularly on the acoustic "Ageless Beauty" which provided, undoubtedly, her shining moment of the night. Where Millan's performance was endearing in its sincerity, Campbell's was passionate and earnest. Tears welled in his eyes during the delightfully haunting "They Won't Let Me Go," and he seemed on the verge of a breakdown during his exchange with Millan on "Fixed" before bursting into a smile as the song faded. It was as though he had come to terms with some hidden notion known only to him and his audience.

Stars closed the show with "Changes," a song that, though foreign to many in the audience, highlighted the overwhelming intensity of a band with something to say, and the joy of a group who wouldn't trade its place on that stage with anything else in the world.

As the crowd poured out of the music hall, there was a sense that the night had been something more than just a concert; it had been something remarkable.