Take me to the riot

Stars concert set crowd on fire

concert review by Katrina Caruso

The Montreal indie rock band, Stars, proved that they are more than just pretty music and good lyrics on February 16, headlining a fundraiser show for War Child at the revamped Ex-centris venue on St-Laurent.

Amy Millan, Stars’ female voice and guitarist, was contacted by War Child to do the show, and jumped on the bandwagon, getting her band and friends in the Montreal music scene to join the effort.  

War Child is an organisation promoting the safety and hope for children living in conflict areas around the world. The organisation is against children being exposed to the disturbing effects of war and hopes to encourage peace. 

Stars, comprised Millan, the multi-talented lead singer Torquil Campbell, Evan Cranley (bass), Pat McGee (drums), and Chris Seligman (keyboards), made for a stellar performance. Special guests performed for the benefit: the singer Little Scream; Andrew Whiteman of Broken Social Scene and Ariel Engle of the band “A”; Murray Lightburn of The Dears; and the lead singers of Young Galaxy, Catherine McCandless and Stephen Ramsay. 

“I thought it was amazing. We haven’t played in so long, and having it be here in Montreal, with all the people that we love, was massive encouragement, and to watch my buddies get up and sing… it’s cool,” said Millan after the show. Ramsay added, “That’s the beauty of it. We all feel good watching each other [perform].”

When asked what it was like to play with her comrades, McCandless said, “The whole room is in support and you can have a little more of a sense of humour. It’s nice to not take it so seriously.”

In true Stars fashion, the stage was decorated with white and silver roses. They started off the show with one of their best-known songs, “Set Yourself on Fire”. The crowd was definitely pleased with “Elevator Love Letter”, “Calendar Girl” and “Take me to the Riot”, for which Campbell played the trumpet and everyone sang along. Millan’s vocals echoed memorably during “Window Bird” and their final song of the night, “One More Night”. 

The audience was treated to new songs off the band’s upcoming album: “Undertow”, “Dead Hearts”, “Winter Bones”, and “I died so I Could Haunt You”. The new songs were different than most fan favourites, with a darker, melancholic side. 

“I thought it was beautiful, as always, as expected,” said Megan Dolski, a Concordia student in Journalism. Her friend, Sarah Huzarski, a Dental Hygiene student at John Abbott, said, “It was fucking perfect.”

The night flowed nicely together; Little Scream’s great vocals blended well with A’s eclectic, Indian-inspired sound; Lightburn’s guitar skills gave off good vibes to all, giving way for Young Galaxy to do their thing. 

Young Galaxy played a much softer sound than normal, doing a great rendition of Peter Gabriel’s “The Book of Love”. 

“We’re used to a wall of sound on stage,” said McCandless, adding, “I find [playing softer] very intimate. It makes a nicer exchange with the audience. Well, not nicer, just as nice, but because of that intimacy, you can hear better what you’re doing and it’s a little more personal somehow. It’s nice to share that with the audience.”   

The benefit also hosted a silent auction, for which a signed electric guitar was the main prize, as well as a “Stars Swag Package”. There was a VIP after-show, for fans that donated more toward War Child for their ticket sale, where there was a meet and greet with the bands. 

Montreal’s musical community banded together for a good cause, and still made it an enjoyable evening with quality music, showing that there’s more to making music than getting rich and famous.


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