Islands / Subtitle / Noah 23 Club Lambi, Montreal QC - February 17, 2006

Club Lambi is usually a Haitian hangout but, due to a chance encounter with the Pop Montreal crew, it's being reborn as a new spot for live shows. While the space was T-shirt-clingingly hot and a bit tough for the shorties, in terms of sight lines, the cheesy '80s feel (though clearly not "retro," just not updated) gave it a warm charm. Lambi was already packed when Guelph got all up in the place, as Noah23, Barracuda and Madadam took the stage. While Noah and Barracuda were fine, hyping up the crowd with good-natured party raps, it was Madadam's big-time beats that stole the show from the MCs. Up next was L.A.'s Subtitle, a frequent Montreal visitor and Islands collaborator, who, while lyrically tighter and more complex than the openers, was slightly underwhelming, perhaps due to the fact that he was acting as his own DJ and many of his beats sound better in the earphones than in person. The evening's headliners took the stage and launched into a medley of songs from their just-released debut CD, Return to the Sea. The hubbub from the local cognoscenti at the back of the club (presumably in the rear to avoid what appeared to be an "ironic" mosh pit) was that this was not their best live performance, but such cynicism was lost on the majority, who were obviously enthralled. Fans turned off by the cloying self-involvement of Nick Diamonds and J'aime Tambeur's previous group, the Unicorns, will be more than satisfied with this current incarnation, which seems more in line with the collaborative world-music feel of Paul Simon's Graceland than current indie fare. Diamonds, the group's conductor and chief songwriter, was absolutely at ease leading this sprawling group of indie celebs, though teenaged violin virtuosos the Chow brothers, at times, were poised to steal the show. Highlights included crowd-favourite "Swans, Volcanoes," a swansong for emo cowboys, and the fantastic "Humans," which used the band's depth to brilliantly build up and break down the group's music. As Islands prepare to head out on tour, this show was an early indicator that they are deserving of all the advance hype.