Monday, October 20, 2008

Interlude: Hearts on Fire

I cried a little inside when I saw the venue for this show. To think that Stars, the most romantic band I know, would be playing a venue as unemotional as Terminal 5 was a shame. Would the magic that was so vivid in their Music Hall show last year be sustained? Could their narratives translate in such a cavernous setting? Turns out I shouldn't have worried, as it turned into something spectacular.

Bell X11

Bell X1 fit closely with the Snow Patrol archetype, playing appealing, emotionally unabashed songs that have lifted them to the top of the charts in their native Ireland. Conquering the States is the natural next step, but it's uncertain if they'd be able to without a "Chasing Cars" equivalent, although they seem to have gotten on some soundtracks. The crowd seemed pretty appreciative of their show, and credit to the band for shattering some of my skepticism - an endearing effort to "bring the funk," saw frontman Paul Noonan gyrating dramatically, despite the disclaimer that the Irish defer to New Yorkers when it comes to that sort of thing.

MP3: Bell X1 - Heartlands
MP3: Bell X1 - Flame (Chicken Lips Remix)
MySpace: Bell X1
Official Site: Bell X1


I was psyched, and Stars delivered right off the bat. The one-two punch of "The Night Starts Here" and the stunner "Ageless Beauty" outshone even the overcharged lighting rig. These are, after all, some of my favorite songs, but even the slower numbers kept the overflowing crowd enraptured. Again, I have to defer to Torquil Campbell and Amy Milan, the two pillars of what make Stars so great. While people have complained about Torquil's temperment, you can't question the guy's sincerity and passion, and Amy's voice is just sublime. There are questions of whether Stars have hit a plateau - I haven't heard their most recent Sad Robots EP, but In Our Bedroom After the War wasn't nearly as revelatory as their past work. But right now, the band has amassed an astonishing amount of quality songs, and the depth of the setlist was staggering.

I go to a lot of shows, and I have to admit that the huge ones are memorable in ways that smaller dives can't match. And Stars rose to the occasion, filling the (large) space with their instruments, but also their love, tossing roses and sparking more than a few sing-alongs. Torquil reiterated their New York roots, saying they started off just a few blocks away from the venue. Ultimately, it wasn't just about the music, it was about celebrating how music unites us.

Here's the band playing to another big crowd at Lollapalooza in 2006. Enjoy.

1. Set Yourself on Fire
2. Elevator Love Letter
3. Reunion
4. Death To Death
5. Going, Going, Gone
6. What I'm Trying To Say
7. One More Night
8. Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
9. Ageless Beauty
10. Soft Revolution
11. He Lied About Death
12. Calender Girl

MySpace: Stars
Official Site: Stars

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