Live: The Stills @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg, 9/18

Music Reviews
Live: The Stills @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg, 9/18

The Stills neither look nor play like they sound. Saturated onstage in an electronic bonfire glow, vocalists Dave Hamelin and Tim Fletcher didn’t resemble the sensitive, love-lorn Canadian art school graduates they portray so well on their three studio albums. Every note they struck accompanied a natural rock god pose or back-flowing hair sweep, and despite the fragile undertones of their albums, the theatrics didn’t feel insincere in the least.

Somewhere between the crooner strut of Bobby Darin and the prototype indie rock of R.E.M., the Montreal quintet owned the stage at The Music Hall of Williamsburg with a dance floor that was barely a third full. It was a bizarre contrast: The group had enough enthusiasm for a stadium with only a handful of devoted fans there to experience it. Their latest album, Oceans Will Rise, is a perfect allegory for the restless pivoting and ground swell melodies that define their live show. Revolving less around the claustrophobic intimacy of their debut Logic Will Break Your Heart, it takes an anthemic route to big, major-chord deliveries on tracks like “Being Here” and “Hands on Fire.”
If there’s one complaint to be lodged with The Stills, it’s that their show overshadows the melancholic subtlety of their earlier music. Set closer “Gender Bombs” was a romantic requiem of sound and fury, and the best breakup song of the last ten years for those counting, but lacked the tears and frustration etched into the original recording. But if the group’s new-found exhilaration leads to more shows like these, it’s a concession I’m more than happy to make.
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