It says a lot about a band who are together for 20 years, and it says even more when they decide to create a play showcasing their collective anxieties, and creative (and sometimes personal) disagreements.
Set in the band’s Montreal rehearsal space, Stars: Together is part rock concert and part semi-autobiographical play that showcases Stars in a new light. The band, most of whom aren’t professional actors, oozes authenticity as they tackle several heavy topics like death, divorce, financially surviving as a band, etc, as they weave in anecdotes about everything from the death of co-lead singer Torquil Campbell’s father, performing for free at Spotify HQ in NYC, and more.
Campbell was the most outspoken of the group as he often went on tangents throughout the show about everything from the evils of capitalism (“Capitalism is hunting us”), the lack of revenue for artists on streaming platforms (“It’s funny it’s called streaming because once the money comes to us it’s more of a trickle”), and how the worse word to hear is goodbye, and that everyone wants to believe they’re going to be together forever and that we all yearn to stay in that “beautiful eternal middle” where everything works out in the end. Much like their live shows, Campbell added a fiery spark to the experience and forced you to dwell upon thoughts and ideas either too inconvenient or too uncomfortable to grapple with.
Like many Stars gigs, crowd participation was a constant with one moment featuring Campbell asking audience members if anyone has ever quit on them, which only added to the impact of the overall performance.
What can sometimes be a dividing feature was the metaness of it all with band members diving into monologues about their hatred for the theatre, problems creating the show, etc, which added to the blur of what was real, what was half true, and what was complete bullshit. It was initially disorienting but eventually sucked you into the story with its earnestness.
The only downside of the production were the two life-size puppets/robots that flanked each side of the stage. Ugly, cumbersome, and highly ineffective, they didn’t add anything to the production, and unfortunately acted as more of an unwanted distraction.
Overall, Stars: Together showcased as Homer Simpson once said “the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, and the creamy middles”. It showed us how dysfunctional being in a band for 20 years can be but through sacrifice and patience can pull through. Stars is one of Canada’s greatest musical exports and Stars: Together makes you love them even more.