Monday, June 9, 2008

Stars, Death Cab for Cutie, Rogue Wave, Young Galaxy @ Olympic Island, June 6

It’s been a couple months since Stars last performed — taking a break during a worldwide tour that launched in the fall — and I expected some rust. Sure enough, their set began poorly, with Amy nearly missing the start of first song, “The Night Starts Here,” and Torq over-singing his parts to combat the outdoor concert expansiveness.
     It took a while for them to hit their groove, but the latter half of the show – starting with blazing renditions of “What I’m Trying to Say,” “Elevator Love Letter,” and “Midnight Coward” — was as strong as any Stars concert I’ve seen. The tearjerker moment — and every Stars show has at least one of them — was the show’s heart-wrenching climax, “In Our Bedroom After the War,” setting the bar high for headliners Death Cab for Cutie.
     Too high, apparently. I was impressed with Death Cab when I saw them a few years back, mostly for delivering a surprisingly loud rock show when I expected a laid-back O.C.-ish night. But, despite the fact lead singer Ben Gibbard has written some terrific songs, Death Cab is mostly mundane live. File them with other bands whose records will do just fine.
     And that’s the main difference between Stars and Death Cab for Cutie, the two best indie-pop bands out there. Stars are true performers: a ragtag group of new romantics, lead by former actor Torq Campbell (whose between-song segues — often laced with the words “fuck” or “fucking” — could easily be extended into Billy Bragg-like soliloquies), who pour their heart into each show. I won’t get tired of seeing them anytime soon.
     The two other bands on the bill couldn’t have been more different. Rogue Wave were at their veteran best, showing off the fine yet underrated songs off last year’s Asleep at Heaven’s Gate; while Young Galaxy, despite their Arts-&-Crafts pedigree, were just happy to be invited. Slow and uninspiring, they are clearly not ready for the big time.
(Thanks again Zack for taking photos — click above for larger image. Set list here.)

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