It felt a lot like a high school dance: On stage, this cool Canadian indie pop band played a good mix of fast and slow tunes, perfectly suited for dancing, yet most of the crowd sat still. Apparently some sort of Footloose-esque "no dancing" memo must have circulated, but one brave girl shouted at singer/guitarist Nick Thorburn, asking his permission to cut a rug.
Thorburn seemed puzzled that she needed to ask in the first place. "Yeah, kick the seats over," Thorburn said. "Shit is so weird." Dressed in a button down and blazer, he stood with three other similarly well-dressed musicians that put the rest of the crowd to shame. Because Islands is classy like that.
Now, in the audience's defense, Islands played a lot of songs from A Sleep & A Forgetting, which is only a day old. Thorburn said he started writing it on Valentine's Day of last year and thought it was appropriate to release it exactly a year later. The album is pretty sad; but what break up songs aren't? It isn't a miserable kind of sad, it's the sort of thing that comes across as achingly beautiful.
"Don't I Love You" was a highlight of the night, providing Thorburn with a stunning solo performance that would have cued the first theoretical slow dance of the evening.
Islands' set went in waves of emotion. The break up songs were mellow and relaxing, and the fast tunes got some people out of their seats to quietly sing along to songs like "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby," which earned a few "rest in peace, Whitney" shout outs.
Thorburn's sense of humor was almost as entertaining as the music. He gestured to a guy sitting by himself in the all-ages section and asked if he farted. "Did you drop a neutron bomb and no one wants to sit next to you? This song's for you...wait, no it's not, it's about masturbation. Sorry man, I'll give you a hug after the show," he quipped, launching into "Lonely Love" as the audience snickered.
After a pretty solid set, Islands left the stage and the house music came on. The crowd cheered them back for the one-song encore consisting of "Hearbeat," which Thorburn said was about autotune, yet he sang it clean. The band awkwardly said goodbye and that was the end of the show.
Whether or not the show was enjoyable depends on who you are. As a first time viewer of Islands, I had fun. It was a nice, chill way to spend a Wednesday evening.
On the other hand, diehard Islands/Unicorns fans seemed to disagree. At the end of the show I overheard a conversation about how boring these gals thought the concert was and that they would never see the band again. Sounds a little harsh, but supposedly the band's show at the Rhythm Room last year wasthatgood, and maybe a little less encumbered by a lack of movement.
Setlist: 1. This Is Not A Song 2. Never Go Solo 3. In A Dream (It Seemed Real) 4. Lonely Love 5. Hallways 6. Creeper 7. EOL 8. That Gun 9. Swallows 10. Don't I Love You 11. Cold Again 12. Oh Maria 13. Something 14. Swans (Life After Death) 15. Switched On 16. Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby 17. Can't Feel My Face
Encore: 18. Heartbeat
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Islands at Crescent Ballroom. Personal Bias: I've been a fan since Arm's Way and I have a thing for cute Canadian guys. The Crowd: Typical Crescent youngin's. Overheard in the Crowd: "I'm so horny right now." Random Notebook Dump: What are chairs doing at The Crescent?