Last year Islands hit Chicago for a show at Lincoln Hall a couple weeks after their album A Sleep And A Forgetting was released. Following the same timeline this year, they played last night at Empty Bottle with Ski Mask hitting shelves very recently. Empty Bottle is a much smaller venue, so I was shocked that tickets remained available up until the time of the show. Those who decided to come out we’re treated to a set much more fun and lively than the previous Chicago show.
They kicked off the set with a few new songs in a row. They followed the same line last time, but here no one around me complained that they didn’t know the tunes. Instead everyone seemed pretty well-informed and sang along. The first three songs went in the same order they do on Ski Mask: “Waveforms,” “Death Drive,” and “Becoming The Gunship.” Then they took a leap to Vapours for “Car Bomb.”
It was a couple songs in before I started to notice something my view at Lincoln Hall didn’t allow-Nick Thorburn’s little hip shimmy that he does while singing/playing guitar. It’s very much influenced by the pelvic swivel of Elvis Presley, and a great bit of fun. The band seemed to be in high spirits all night, providing a much better audience experience.
At one point Nick made a reference to a sitcom (don’t remember which one), and it got a very dry response. He then said, “Oh I’m sorry I forgot you guys only get regional sitcom references.” And then he said something about Balky from “Perfect Strangers.” It was hilarious, but I don’t think that’s coming through the way I’m telling it now.
Islands played 16 songs over about an hour and ten minutes. Eight of them came from the new album, with the rest spread out over their whole catalogue. The encore of “Hallways” and “Swans” was amazing, with the latter providing some real fireworks as the band jammed out for elongated periods of time.
Islands have put out some of the best music over the last decade, so it was nice to see them in a small club with some true fans. It definitely beats seeing them in a large hall with a bunch of people who don’t have an unhealthy obsession with the band. This tour is just getting started, so if they come to your town make sure you don’t miss them!