Islands latest release, Vapours, is a back-to-basics electro pop album, free of the proggy bombast that plagued 2007's Arm's Way. During the group's performance at the Rickshaw Theatre, however, it was clear that front-man Nick Thorburn still hasn't abandoned his glam rock pretensions. The singer came on stage wearing a white spangled poncho and bug-eyed sunglasses, looking a bit like a cross between Liberace and a Catholic priest. With his ironed hair flopping down across his face, he posed on top of monitors and performed slow-motion hula dances during the opener "Switched On."
It was a ridiculous display, but even Thorburn's prancing couldn't obscure the fact that he knows how to write a damn good pop song. Backed by drummer Jamie Thompson and two multi-instrumentalists on guitars and keyboards, Islands launched into a series of cuts from Vapours, the bubblegum pulse of "Tender Tender" providing an early highlight.
Thorburn mercifully stripped off the poncho after a few songs, revealing a slightly more tolerable outfit that consisted of a white silk shirt and figure-hugging white jeans. The group only played two tracks off Arm's Way, otherwise sticking to new material, as well several tunes from 2006's Return to the Sea. "Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone" earned the biggest cheer of the night, while "Rough Gem" gave the audience a chance to clap along with its chirpy calypso riff.
The set ended with "Swans (Life After Death)," an epic jam that contained seemingly endless codas and reprisals. Slashing away at his guitar, Thorburn appeared to have given over entirely to the music, a refreshing departure from the pretentious theatrics that plagued much of the set. If only he had abandoned the diva schtick earlier, perhaps all of the evening could have been as enjoyable.