Live Review: Island

King Tut’s, 15/5/18

A night in King Tut’s is rarely a night wasted and Island’s gig was no exception to the rule.

As the audience steadily filter into the iconic music venue, Howling Home are first to greet them. The band’s catchy melodies and steady drum beat are flourished with rhythmic backing vocals and soaring trumpet lines that build to create a multi-layered texture, at times reminiscent of Frightened Rabbit. Although a little rough around the edges, I’d say these guys are ones to watch – and as a massive Frightened Rabbit fan, who the band cite as an influence, I’m only a tiny bit biased.

Club Kuru are the second support of the night and are accompanying Island on a number of their gigs. Although these talented musicians deliver a tight set, I found the “psych-rock” style a questionable match for such an indie-rock headline. Nonetheless, the band provided funky riffs from the synthy-sounding guitar, airy female backing vocals and a confident front man who holds a beer in one hand and the mic in the other.

Atmospheric music plays as the headliners take to the stage and are received well by the audience. The band get off to a powerful start, playing energetic singles from their new album Feels Like Air that fill up the venue immediately. I had listened to Island’s music on Spotify before, but I felt it worked so much better in a live context. The soaring lead guitar, the raw vocals and the palpable energy from the drums and bass worked dreamily in the context of a smokey, dimmed venue. It was the kind of live music that tied you the moment; I looked back a few times to see a smiling, swaying audience, some with eyes closed and one couple even romantically dancing with each other the whole way through the gig…

‘Stargazer’ was my personal favourite; the build up was effortlessly managed and Rollo’s faultless vocals are definitely enhanced by the energy of a live performance. Certainly the band find a good balance in their live performance; achieving a kind of epic sound and delivery without verging on melodramatic, creating the impression of experimentation in instrumental sections without being self-indulgent, and generating a dreamy kind of atmosphere without pretence.

There was a noticeable rapport between the band members; Rollo introduced each member to the crowd, and thanked their sound engineer Mike, who waved timidly from the sound desk.

Near the end of the set, the other band members left the stage for Rollo to perform ‘Lilyflower’- the only stripped back song of the night. I think the set would have benefitted from more variation of this sort to avoid a feeling of repetition.

Overall though, a powerful set from a band definitely at their best live.

[Anna Doody – @annadoodz]

Find an interview with the band here.

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