Live review: Stars with Diamond Rings and California Wives at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 9/28/12
Montreal’s Stars may not be a household name, but they deserve to be. After six studio albums and critical accolades, this is an example of a band lost in the noise of a million other bands trying to catch a break. Ironically, exposure may be all Stars need to get a leg up and earn some respect. The excellent new release The North could possibly be one of 2012’s best albums. But, hearing it on the radio is another thing. Don’t hold your breath.
Leaders of the band, Torquil Campbell (who has also played and recorded with Broken Social Scene) and the Kate Bush-esque Amy Millan, work together like cinnamon and sugar. Beautiful harmonies and melodies that heard alone could be a wonderful evening of a cappella sounds. Luckily, there is a tight and impressive band to back these two up. Founding member Chris Seligman is joined by Evan Cranley and Pat McGee.
As the curtains parted at the Variety Playhouse and the band took to the stage (and Paul McCartney’s “Let ‘Em In” faded out), Campbell leapt into an impressive version of Billy Bragg’s “Tender Comrade.” As McGee kicked in on drums, the audience was treated to a sweet version of the first single from North, “The Theory Of Relativity.” Just Campbell. No accompaniment.
After playing the perfect indie pop of “Fixed,” from 2010’s The Five Ghosts, the fans gave much love. “I think I’m falling in love. I think I’m falling in love with you guys. Positive fucking vibes! Nice one.” In fact, the fans thoroughly supported Stars, singing their songs, yelling requests and generally screaming their heads off after each song. Much of the new album was played, along with several older tracks.
And as in any election year, some artists just have to get involved (even those from other countries). Campbell asked the crowd sincerely, “Are you the 47%? Don’t fuck it up, Atlanta. Don’t fuck this up.” This statement was met with mixed reviews, but mostly cheers.
“You have some great spots around here. Thank you Criminal Records. Thank you Variety Playhouse. Thank you civilized fucking people buying art,” Campbell proclaimed. True, Little Five Points is home to both these places and a cultural treasure trove for Atlantans. Everyone should spend a Saturday visiting this place.
At show’s end as the crowd was loud and wanting more, Campbell told fans that he had been in the audience for the Smiths final tour. He then quoted Morrissey from that very show, “You have excellent taste.” During the encore, Campbell said, “You guys are so nice. I’m glad I didn’t go into teaching. You wouldn’t be this nice.” Sad but true.
As thousands will discover via the tour this year (hopefully), Stars put on one terrific live show. But a household name? It’s just a matter of time.
Opening the show was California Wives, on the road promoting their debut album Art History (Astralwerks). With an eighties feel and love from New Order’s Peter Hook, California Wives have a great sound that achieved its purpose of warming up this crowd.
Listen to “Purple” by California Wives
In the on-deck circle was Toronto’s Diamond Rings, who by all accounts is still stuck in the eighties – or successfully reviving that synth-pop sound (it’s the latter). With his white t-shirt and white pants, he was rocking a big chain and spiked blonde hair. Diamond Rings is the moniker of 27-year-old John O’Regan who possessed more energy than all the people – plus Variety’s big ass ceiling fan – combined. This guy was pumped and danced through each and every song. It was so over the top that is was hugely entertaining. And his voice is good, as well.
While O’Regan played much of his 2010 debut, he also performed several from his upcoming release Free Dimensional (10/22, Astralwerks), including the first single, “I’m Just Me.” O’Regan worked the crowd on stage and at the merch table afterwards, shaking hands and visiting with fans. From a glam-o-rific performance to a down-to-earth dude. Good stuff.
Listen to “I’m Just Me”
For tour information, click here. If you want to see one of the best live shows this year, buy that ticket.