Arts and craftsmen

Stars and New Buffalo, Berklee Performance Center, October 19, 2007
By ELLEE DEAN  |  October 23, 2007
REIGNING STAR: Amy Millan aligned her messy Montreal band.

The stage at the Berklee Performance Center last Friday was strewn with Stars and bouquets of flowers. Stars’ Arts & Crafts labelmates New Buffalo opened, with Sally Seltman singing “Well here you are/I’m the drunk and you’re the star” at her piano using an iPod for backing. In this stripped-down setting, she cheered the crowd with “Cheer Me Up Thank You,” a high-pitched, lullaby. With no back-up singers and no band, Buffalo’s canary song floated along on pre-recorded vintage beats and whimsy.

Then, in the dark, Stars’ anthem-pop single “Take Me to the Riot” thumped. From behind a searchlight, frontman Torquil Campbell shivered, shook, stumbled, and coughed while wailing the chant-like chorus. No surprise that Campbell’s credits on Stars’ fourth album, In the Bedroom After the War (Arts & Crafts), include whining, ranting, and weeping; he did so much of this last in concert that his eyes tumesced. Off stage, he sang the opening of his falsetto disco lament “The Ghost of Genova Heights”: cue Campbell in a jacket covered with lights. Doing the robot, he was epileptic. “Terrifying, absolutely terrifying, wasn’t it?” he asked us afterward. And then he started in on his melodica, a pink rose dangling from his microphone. Overexaggerated would be an understatement.

Throughout, frontwoman Amy Millan and her velvet voice were tranquil. She played at Motown and soothing Norah Jones–like subtlety on “My Favourite Book.” While Campbell entertained, Millan performed — even if it meant purring behind him. It was she who brought the messy Canadian quintet together with controlled guitar strumming and vocals. The show was eccentric, eclectic, and, even though Campbell and Millan are mismatched, somehow Stars's songs aligned.

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