Published Apr 06, 2013Back-dropped by the Alix Goolden Performance Hall's dramatic pipe organ, Vancouver's Said the Whale delivered a performance that fans have come to love and admire. The west coast indie rockers brought an energy and sound that had the sold-out crowd on their feet as they prepared for Stars to take the stage.
With moments until Montreal's Stars entered the hall, security gave the crowd the nod to leave their pews and surround the front of the small stage. Wearing some of the best remnants of the '80s, Torquil Campbell, Amy Millan, Chris Seligman, Evan Cranley and Patrick McGee had the all-ages crowd moving and singing along to songs from their latest release The North and old favourites from Set Yourself On Fire and In Our Bedroom After the War. The combined power of Millan and Campbell's stage presence and vocals was enough on its own to keep the audience standing for almost the entire show. Campbell at many times throughout the show abandoned the microphone altogether, using the strength of his voice and the venue's acoustics to carry the sound. The effect was particularly powerful in "Your Ex-Lover is Dead."
Some of what Stars used on stage might have been seen as gimmicky — both Campbell and Millan's use of the tambourine, Campbell on a harmonica — but forget everything you know (and hate) about the tambourine, because as Campbell hammered it against his hand as he raised it to the sky, you couldn't help but think it was a necessary addition to the band. Musically the songs were layered with '80s-inspired keyboard and synth, but when they switched to guitar — including Millan — and the hammer of the drums came in, the diversity of their catalogue was obvious. Being that Stars are indie rock stars in Canada, they could have gone on stage and powered through a self-indulgent set of what they wanted to play, but instead they acknowledged their fans, including requests made for "Heart," which they played. With the crowd full of new listeners and long-time fans, all dancing, and singing together it was clear Stars weren't simply a flash in the pan.