On The List :: Stars @ Littlefield [9.26.10]

Exactly two weeks ago tonight, a Wesleyan student set herself ablaze with flammable accelerant on the edge of the school's athletic fields. Her suicide note held the Stars' lyric, "when there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire." Stars were scheduled for a Sunday night appearance at Wesleyan and there was simply no way that was happening. A rapidly scheduled show at Littlefield appeared out of thin air. Neither singer, Torquil Campbell nor Amy Millan, would elude to the Genesis of this show, but it was true; a band who have always found their pathos in the tension between darkness and life, between death and love were unfairly face up with the actions of a deeply depressed college student who left nothing behind but their song lyrics. A girl who none of us knew killed herself and here we were, celebrating the smallness of the venue, our emotional connection to the songs, the weird shirtless guy to my right. It couldn't feel totally wholesome, and once you knew there was no going back.

We didn't know her. It was dreadfully sad, that was definitely true. But we were here, and so were they, resolute in each corner, forcefully ignoring how much we previously thought this was all life and death. We were mostly just lucky to all be together.

Against this backdrop these anthems of youth and tragedy did not take new meaning (this would be awful and selfish), but they certainly gained strength behind a largely unwitting audience and a band committed to, as they would say, "play music for people like you, until you don't want hear it anymore." Opening with "The Night Starts Here," the band ripped through a series songs that so inspired a particular fan dancing to stage left that Campbell looked at him and said, "The band loves this guy. Lead by example, sir!" The band then immediately shifted into latest single, "Fixed," a song bristling with synths and melody. Stars turned to the stunning "Take Me To The Riot," "I Died So I Could Haunt You" and "Wasted Daylight" in quick succession.

The night would end with Campbell, effectively alone on stage, singing about the loneliness of the dark. After closing with the crushing "Calendar Girl," Stars returned with an encore that contained a cover of The Smiths', "This Charming Man," an ode to how much they are the quiet center between Morrissey and Ben Gibbard's Postal Service. The band retreated, leaving only Campbell and his keyboardist. The lights were down and thankfully, only some us knew exactly why we were all here. Our local and private griefs evaporated in something larger and finally, we were just lucky to all be here together.

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