Monday, March 06, 2006

Live Review - Stellastarr* - Sheffield Leadmill - March 2nd 2006

Stellastarr* seem to have slipped off radar somewhat lately. Briefly tipped as next big things after The Strokes made NYC the coolest place on earth a couple of years ago, a brace of classic singles - "Jenny" and "My Coco" brought them some considerable attention. However, during their absence few seem to have missed them, and the Leadmill
is only half full tonight - perhaps not helped by the fact that their second album, "Harmonies For The Haunted" - whilst released in the US last August, (and doing the file-sharing rounds for a month or two before that) has yet to make an appearance on these shores. That album has marked a new sound for Stellastarr* - the spiky new wave of their debut largely replaced by soaring choruses and over-wrought U2 stylings.

And when the band take to the stage tonight, that’s exactly what we get, with "Lost In Time" prompting guitarist Michael Jurin to produce some truly epic Edge-esque chiming. In their minds, Stellastarr* are certainly in black and white, looking moody atop a mountain range somewhere. It's impressive stuff, but perhaps not to everybody's taste. Luckily though, the contrast between their two records makes for a varied and immensely likeable set. Highlights “No Weather” and new single “Sweet Troubled Soul” prove that when Stellastarr* do let rip, they make a great job of it. Singer Shawn Christensen is an impressive front man - the polar opposite of slurred Casablancas pseudo-cool, his emotive baritone gives the band a certain class few of their peers could match. However, the ace up their sleeve is still “My Coco” – a pounding, twitching, multi-layered rock beast which sounds as fresh and dynamic now as it did two years ago. Here they play it as a blinder, and go straight into “Pulp Song” before the crowd even have chance to applaud – a stunning pairing which leave the audience crying out for the inevitable encore. By the time the New-Wave anthem that is “Jenny” brings the evening’s entertainment to a close, Jurin is on his knees and Christensen is playing flat on his back, leaving bassist Amanda Tannen to keep up the pretence of icy cool.

It would be a crying shame if Stellastarr* get neglected as the Arctic Monkeys / Franz / Kaisers bandwagon focuses critics eyes firmly back on these isles. They are a satisfying and complete band where many around them are merely sketches, and whilst they wear their influences plainly on their sleeve, their emotive power and – most importantly – great tunes, mean they deserve a place in your heart and record collection.

Words And Pictures by Matt


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