April 25, 2006

Editors earn high marks at the Metro

Indie rock is fun, and on Easter Sunday—yeah, I went to a concert on Easter—Stellastarr* and Editors proved that. To any true indie fan, Stellastarr* is a fairly common name. With tunes like “Jenny,” “Sweet Troubled Soul,” and “My Coco,” my favorite, they have their moments, though by no logical reasoning can they be considered a great band.

For the second time in eight months, the Chicago-loving group chose to perform at the Metro’s second-floor concert hall on North Clark Street. Playing from about 9:30–11 p.m., their sequence of around 20 songs was uninspiring at best. The problem rested in the fact that for nearly the entire hour-and-a-half, the act seriously lacked any type of energy. But in all fairness, the poor showing wasn’t completely Stellastarr*’s fault. For starters, the average spectator age was pushing 30, and it seemed like just about everyone had come alone and was content to stand around and do a lethargic head bob to the beat of the drums and bass. But even with the tough crowd, Stellastarr* effectively exacerbated the problem.

Lead vocalist Shawn Christensen and percussionist Arthur Kremer carried the show with Christensen’s passionate voice and Kremer’s comparable skills on the drums. Therefore, the problem lay with guitarist Michael Jurin and bassist Amanda Tannen. I’m not an expert on music, but I do know that seeing half the band sway and fix their hair throughout the entire concert won’t make me scream “Go Stella!”—although it did elicit that response from one dancing lunatic behind me. Christensen’s bipolar nature—some songs he really flipped out, and others, he just sat on the stage—received no emotional backing from his bandmates. The crowd remained, as I said before, uninspired. Although Stellastarr* did hit a groove in their undeserved encore, the performance moved me about as much as their CD. All in all, after hearing Stellastarr* live, I was fairly unimpressed.

Now, saving the best for last, Editors.

Opening for Stellastarr*, Editors are clearly flying under the radar on their first American tour. Hailing from Birmingham, England, the British band hit the ground running with their first album, The Back Room, in July 2005. Judging by The Back Room’s platinum status in early 2006 and their invitation to tour with Franz Ferdinand, Editors have already begun to make their mark on Great Britain, and they’re now ready to try the United States.

I’m not sure what it is about British indie bands, but with Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, Radiohead, Stereophonics, and now Editors, my eardrums can’t get enough of the stuff. Editors can truly jam, and before my disappointment with Stellastarr* on Sunday, I was able to witness a band on the rise that plays better live than in the studio.

With talkative, clever, and even emotional lead singer Tom Smith, the show engaged the stagnant audience—which gives Stellastarr* no excuse. I’m not sure how to explain why, but Editors’ performance wowed with the excitability of live music while maintaining the crispness of their songs as if freshly streamed through the studio. With only around half of Stellastarr*’s stage time, Editors put together a truly stellar performance. The highlight of the night came with the performance of their single “Bullets.” Although not their most popular single, the band fused the song together with fantastic chemistry behind Smith’s fervent vocals.

With Editors leaving for ole Britian on the first of May, most people won’t be lucky enough to catch them, but if you like music and have $10 to spare, you might consider picking up The Back Room.