Show Review: Modest Mouse with Empath and Future Islands, The Andrew J. Brady ICON Music Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

This was my first visit to The Andrew J. Brady ICON Music Center in Cincinnati since it opened earlier this year. Nestled next to between the stadiums and next to the river, ICON is still shiny and new.

Similar to Express Live! In Columbus, it has an indoor and outdoor area for shows, but with a capacity of 4,500 & 8,000 respectively it can hold almost twice as many people. I can’t figure out if it’s surprisingly big for as small as it is, or wonderfully small for how big it is (if that makes any sense,) but it certainly was nice.

Philadelphia’s noise punks Empath opened the night. It takes a lot to seem energetic when all four members are stuck where they are (two synths, a drummer and guitar / vocals) but they somehow manage to pull it off. They had hints of that “Dayton Sound,” and while vocalist / guitarist Catherine Elicson does have Ohio roots, I may just be biased there… They are worth checking out, and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.

Once Future Islands started, I don’t think singer Samuel Herring ever stopped moving through their entire set. His magnetic stage presence and the band’s danceable self-proclaimed “post-wave” style kept the crowd moving right along with him. Their almost synth-pop sound has hints of anything from hip-hop, indie rock and techno plus the occasional surprising blast of metal mainly thanks to Herring’s guttural growling screams getting thrown into the mix all added up to a really great set. Plus, it’s always a bonus for me when a band doesn’t have a guitar and you really don’t miss it.

One of the things that I will always love about seeing Modest Mouse is that they change up the setlist from night to night, so you never know for sure what you’re going to hear. Shortly before their set, I realized that I had seen them for the first time just over twenty-one years ago (Newport Music Hall in Columbus – Sept. 16th, 2000.) I must admit, the fact that they played a handful of songs from that night makes me incredibly happy. While the set drew heaviest from this year’s The Golden Casket, they performed a fairly broad spectrum from 9 albums reaching furthest back to This Is a Long Drive…’s “Breakthrough” in their surprising six song encore.

Even with a slightly smaller line-up than I’ve seen them with live over the past few years, surprisingly nothing sounded like it was missing. Between Tom Peloso and Russell Higbee hopping between keyboards, bass / upright bass & backing vocals, percussionist Ben Massarella, and auxiliary guitarist Simon O’Connor, any spaces that it seemed like there could possibly be were filled perfectly.

I’m not sure why, but Isaac Brock was wearing a pair of full over-ear headphones from the beginning, joking after walking out that he had them on for listening to his personal playlist during the show. Whatever it was he that had pumping through them, the band made their way through enough old friends and new neighbors to keep everyone in the building moving and singing along for just about two hours. Even though there were songs that I would have loved to have heard but didn’t from their 30ish year catalog (“Broke,” for example), I was more than happy (especially considering “Shit Luck” in the encore) with what I was given.

I am far more a photographer than I am a writer / reviewer, but I had a ridiculous amount of fun, and absolutely zero complaints about this entire night. Go see any and all of these bands when/where ever you have the chance.

Review and Photos by Christopher Corn