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Canada's stars shine brightly in Dublin

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"I wish we could play Dublin every night for the rest of our lives!" Stars frontman Torquil Campbell there, declaring his love for Irish fans. And there are quite a few of them.

Stars, a one-time buzz band and Toronto's third-favourite cult indie-pop ensemble, were due to touch down at the Workman's Club, you know. Inevitably, public demand led to a change of venue, shifting the group's long-awaited Irish return from Wellington Quay to Wexford Street.

Such a pity, then, that Whelan's wasn't available (we're in the venue formerly known as The Village tonight). Grand spot and all, but the sound is patchy, at best. Never mind - let's just focus on the performance, shall we?

Seven albums in and singer Campbell and friends are in particularly cheerful form. It's all a bit retro up there, with plenty of electronic undercurrents to go with the, er, starry, neon backdrop. You gotta love the pink lighting too. Campbell (fabulous mover) and co-vocalist Amy Millan (nice guitarist) make for a hell of a team, dipping and diving through glistening synth-pop numbers and guitar-heavy, indie-rock work-outs. Great singers, better performers.

Granted, it's not all perfect. From the Night and the superb Ageless Beauty should have been solid live numbers, but Campbell and Millan's harmonies are a tad wobbly at first. Luckily, things improve, and as the two begin to spark off of one another their handsomely decorated supporting players kick things into gear with a wondrous, often dreamy wall of noise. As usual, drummer Pat McGee keeps his shades on indoors.

Think Broken Social Scene (of which Campbell and Millan are occasional members) or even Arcade Fire, only a little more sparkle (and a lot less crowded). It's a pleasure to find that these folks don't take themselves too seriously either - why stare at your feet when you can have some fun instead?

WHISKEY

At a Stars gig, things get cheesy (an appreciative Millan gushes over our wonderful city). The group also give a shout-out to their manager, Eoin O'Leary, who was diagnosed with cancer while the band worked on their most recent album, No One Is Lost. Eoin (on his way to recovery, thankfully) is from Swords, says Campbell. Incidentally, the singer does a fine Irish accent - and is that a bottle of Jameson in his hand? Good man.

Plugging away now for almost 15 years, Stars display the kind of flair, energy and zeal you'd expect from a group with such a flamboyant name. They also play like a newly-formed band.

Sure, some songs stick while others simmer out before they've even had a chance to begin. But Stars are a likeable bunch - smart and engaging too, with a handful of genuine belters in their back pockets (This is the Last Time and the joyous Take Me to the Riot). Oh, and there's a lot of pogo-ing in here tonight - both on and off the stage. "Don't forget us, we won't forget you!" declares Campbell. No worries there. HHHII


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