Cincinnati's live music scene has made much-needed recent leaps in becoming a hub for major indie acts and growing artists. With the addition of the PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation across the river and now The Andrew J Brady ICON Music Center, Cincinnati has become a destination for many artists who may have usually been a strange fit for some venues or not even thought about stopping in Cincinnati.
With already several big-name acts playing The Andrew J Brady ICON Music Center, fans have been given a whole new option for acts they otherwise may have had to travel to go see. And for bands like Modest Mouse and Future Islands, they were able to play in a venue that seemed to fit them perfectly.
Tuesday night, indie rock troubadours Modest Mouse and Future Islands brought their post-pandemic tours to the new venue.
The last time Future Islands was in the Queen City, it was to play the National's Homecoming Festival. The synth-rock quartet followed an excellent performance by show openers Empath. If you haven't heard of the West Philadelphia act, fans of garage rock with shoegaze sensibilities will love this band.
As Future Islands took the stage, fans who may have been unaware of their live performance were quickly indoctrinated into Sam Herring's commanding stage performance. The best way to describe Herring on stage is to understand his clear appreciation of theatre and performance art.
Dawning a simple attire, with a black t-shirt and jeans. One wouldn't assume the amount of emotion and physicality he brings to the stage. His vocal range jumps between the crooning sensibilities of Morrissey and the abrasive baritone wails of hardcore lead singers.
Whether that sounds appealing or not, you cannot deny Herring's ability to captivate an audience. At times it felt as though he was literally living the experience of his lyrical content. From beating his chest so hard that each time it made the mic pop to reenacting fighting through crashing ocean waves during the opening lyrics of "A Dream of You and Me."
His impassioned performance was intriguing enough to make fans want to see this 16-year-long touring act over and over again. With almost a Guided By Voices approach to shows which is to play as many songs as possible in an allotted time, tour constantly, and change the setlist each night.
Personally, there were so many songs left on the table Tuesday that made me want to see this band over and over again, so that I can see what those performances are like. For those on the fence about seeing Future Islands, rest assured that you will get your money's worth each time they come to town.
After Future Islands' performance, indie-rock legends Modest Mouse took the stage. In support of their 2021 record, The Golden Casket, an album that many critics say is a return to form for Issac Brock. A paranoid collection of abrasive sounds that meet in the middle with these pop-sensible hooks that the band has always been so good at showcasing.
It's been 25 years since the band's first record, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, and over that time, they've released nine studio records. At this point, much like their peers, Modest Mouse has the ability to offer completely different sets each night.
That's exactly what they did last night, kicking the show off with "Night on the Sun," off their 1999 EP. Long-time fans of Modest Mouse should've been excited about the setlist put together by the band on Tuesday. Never leaning on hits, but instead almost giving a career-spanning highlight that appeased everyone.
The first four songs all came from different iterations and eras of the band. Along with that, this is the best the band has sounded live in several years. They sound incredibly tight when playing their respected hits while still experimenting with Brock and giving fans unexpected flashes of uniqueness to each performance.
Naturally, the highlights of the night came during songs like, "A Different City," off their acclaimed third record, and my personal favorite, The Moon & Antarctica. And when the band broke out hits like, "Missed The Boat," fans couldn't help but belt out the chorus with Brock. The experience of the crowd backing vocals in the new ICON music center really are what made some of the songs even more enjoyable.
As the band came back for their encore, fans were delighted with a six-song set. A testament to how Brock and company wanted to treat these fans who stayed out late on a Tuesday. Although leaning heavier to their newer material, this encore also features gems from the band's first three and arguably their best records.
For fans who may not have experienced all three acts before last night, it's hard to see how one wouldn't want to see these bands over and over again. There is a certain point bands of Future Island's and Modest Mouse's stature reach, where you aren't forced to pander to anyone and your performance can purely speak for itself. That's exactly what each band gave audiences Tuesday. A performance that'll have them singing in the car the next day driving to work but a bit of unfulfillment. However, that's not a bad thing and should entice fans to keep on coming back for years to come.