Islands / Lushlife Ritual Nightclub, Ottawa ON, May 17

Islands / Lushlife Ritual Nightclub, Ottawa ON, May 17
Photo: Ming Wu
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After an eventful two years that found Nicholas Thorburn touring with the briefly reunited Unicorns, composing music for the popular podcast Serial and releasing an electronic album as Nick Diamonds, the B.C. musician reconnected with his long-standing musical outfit, Islands. Supporting the release of not one but two new albums, Should I Remain Here at Sea? and Taste, the quartet kicked off their two-month tour at Ottawa's Ritual Nightclub last night (May 17).
 
Opening the night was Philadelphia rapper Lushlife, who hit the stage for a 40-minute set that heavily featured tracks from his terrific new album, Ritualize. Pulling double duty as MC and DJ, Lushlife moved from behind his digital turntables and laptop to the front of the stage, delivering a high-energy set that, despite the scarce turnout of around 20 onlookers, received a rousing and rapturous reception.
 
Sporting a tucked-in white tee and dark flooded Dockers, Thorburn, along with multi-instrumentalists Evan and Geordie Gordon and drummer Adam Halferty, greeted the crowd, which now hovered at around 30 people. Performing their new material live as far back as 2014, Islands sounded tight, kicking off their set with tracks from their two latest albums, released just four days prior.
 
Thorburn put his guitar down for a mid-performance rendition of tracks from 2012's criminally underrated A Sleep & a Forgetting, including "Can't Feel My Face" and "Hallways," shimmying across the stage while spurring the audience to join in and start to move. Thorburn got much more loose and relaxed throughout the night, demonstrating his wickedly acerbic sense of humour by the show's second half as he started up an extended, impromptu Q&A with a random, good-humoured audience member.
 
Unfortunately, aside from a rare rendition of "Renaud," the hidden track from their 2006 debut Return to the Sea, and a closer that found the band transitioning into a cover of Prince's "When You Were Mine," Islands' 80-minute, encore-less set was devoid of surprises or, for that matter, crowd-pleasers. It was an interesting show, but a subdued one, as Islands kicked off their tour in a low-key, casual manner.