Taipei’s top indie rock club The Wall (這牆) had a banner week as it hosted Montreal band Stars last Monday and venerable post-rock outfit Mogwai on Friday night.
Judging from the response of the near-capacity crowd on Monday, Stars lived up to their name. Their pop-rock sound, a mix of New Wave, electronica and soul, made for a spirited and fun evening.
Many in the audience of some 400 people danced and sang along throughout the band’s two-hour show. Fans in front of the stage, which was adorned with roses, squealed as vocalist Torquil Campbell reached his hand out into the crowd while singing. Everyone seemed to know all the lyrics.
Vocalist Amy Millan was taken aback by the boisterous response. “We heard rumors that you were docile [in Taiwan],” she told the audience halfway through the show.
Campbell and Millan were perfect counterparts on stage, just as they are on their albums. He came across as flamboyant and melodramatic, prancing about the stage and gesturing while singing. She was steady and quiet, grounded at her spot with a guitar and swaying gently with the band. They both flung rose petals into the audience all through the evening.
The band started with The Night Starts Here, a synthesizer-heavy song with a driving beat. A few kinks in the sound system threw the band off, but they recovered quickly with a rousing version of the anthemic Take Me to the Riot.
Things started to simmer after a boisterous version of Reunion. The audience was pumped, and so was Campbell. “This might be a bit early to say … you just might be the best fuckin’ crowd we’ve ever played for,” he said, out of breath and wiping his brow.
Everyone cheered, then the band launched into Bitches in Tokyo, sung by Millan, which sent the crowd into another frenzy.
Later in the show, Campbell thanked The Wall and shared his impressions from the band’s stay in Taiwan’s capital: “Taipei is like Blade Runner.” He also talked about trying betel nut. “It’s like really bad coke you buy on the beach in Miami,” he said and then admonished the crowd not to “do drugs … unless nobody’s looking,” to even more cheering and laughter.
The band ended their set with rousing renditions of the Smiths-esque What I’m Trying to Say and a crowd-pleasing Elevator Love Letter. Tired and elated, they return for an extended encore, a loose but spirited set that included Millan’s soul-pop number Favourite Book.
On the final song, Calendar Girl, as the cymbals crashed and the song reached a dramatic crescendo, Campbell bid farewell by saying, “We are Stars, and so are you.” He then set down the microphone, stepped to the edge of the stage and yelled out a different refrain to the song: “You’re alive! You’re alive! You’re alive!”
Emerging through a blue haze of dry ice onto the stage on Friday night, Mogwai had plenty to live up to considering the gig’s NT$2,800 ticket price on the door. Scaling trademark delay-drenched peaks and juxtaposing loud and soft with predictability, there were few surprises, but the crowd enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
Dynamic contrasts (originally intended to startle audiences) prompted knowing anticipatory smiles. The band spoke very little except from a few Glaswegian accented “Thank-yous” from Stuart Braithwaite.
Being there felt like the gig equivalent of re-watching a favorite movie — you know what’s going to happen, you can quote the lines in full, but for a lack of imagination you rent it anyway, and bask in the warmth of fond familiarity.