Torquil Campbell, who shares lead vocals with Amy Millan in the Canadian sextet Stars, worked up such a sweat Wednesday night that by the end of the main set his dark blue dress shirt appeared plastered to his frame. “Maximum wetness,” he joked as Millan ambushed him by taking a phone photo.
“Take off your shirt!” somebody in the adoring crowd at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery shouted.
“Who are you,” Campbell quipped, “Harvey Weinstein?”
It was a light moment during an evening of effervescent ones — or at least a counterbalance to Stars’ often-bittersweet, baldly emotional tunes carrying the acknowledgement that we’re all short-timers here on Earth. This is, after all, a band whose penultimate song, “No One Is Lost,” turned into a giddy dance party for the chorus “Put your hands up ’cause everybody dies!”
Oh, and they were playing at a graveyard. “When I was young I dreamed of standing at a cemetery where movie stars are buried and listening to Steely Dan,” Campbell wisecracked as Stars took the stage to their intro music. “Good night!”
Stars’ set drew from seven of the band’s nine albums, shifting between heartstring-tugging indie-pop to buoyant popgazing to disco lite. They performed eight songs from their new record, “There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light,” finishing with the tender piano ballad “The Gift of Love,” which found Campbell and Millan rekindling the show’s most magical moments, their boy/girl vocals. Theirs are not virtuoso harmonies, but they possess a fierce earnestness, and a symbiosis that’s grown stronger over the years.
Their bandmates — Evan Cranley, Chris Seligman, Patrick McGee and Chris McCarron — were in sync, too, even with McGee manning the drums with a cast on his left arm because of a broken hand. McGee took a one-song break mid-set, with L.A.’s Allison “Hi-Hat” Smith filling in on “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It.”
By the time Stars got to the nuggets of their catalog — “Ageless Beauty” and “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” from 2004 to end the main set, 2003’s “Elevator Love Letter” in the encore — the crowd was fully engaged. They took over for a verse here and there (hitting every note) as Campbell and Millan stepped back, admiringly.
Stars wrap up their three-night stand at the Masonic Lodge tonight.
Setlist: Losing to You, Wasted Daylight, Fluorescent Light, Privilege, The Theory of Relativity, Real Thing, California I Love That Name, Take Me to the Riot, Midnight Coward, Alone, Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It, Wanderers, Trap Door, Ageless Beauty, Your Ex-Lover Is Dead. Encore: We Called It Love, Elevator Love Letter, No One Is Lost, The Gift of Love
Photos by Andie Mills