Gig Review by John Murphy with Photography by Carl Fleischer

Future Islands

“Woah buddy! I’ll take all of that you’ve got!”. Those were a grinning David Letterman’s words after Future Islands’ performance of Seasons (Waiting For You) on his show last March, a performance that was soon to go viral. It was one of those videos you kept going back to, without quite knowing why – but something undefinable kept drawing you back to watch that most watchable of frontmen, Samuel T Herring.

Future Islands

Future Islands are far from an overnight success though. They’ve been together since 2006, and last year’s breakthrough album Singles was actually their fourth release – although it’s a fair bet that an awful lot of the 1,200 people crammed into a sold-out Plug will probably have first come across them thanks to that Letterman video. And, after a debut UK performance from fellow Baltimore residents synth-core band Chiffon (think a slightly more hardcore version of Braids or Purity Ring), the people of Sheffield welcomed Herring and his bandmates like conquering heroes.

Future Islands

And, as the opening, plaintive chords of Back In The Tall Grass ring out, Herring leaps into action, and nobody can keep their eyes off him. For to witness Samuel T Herring onstage is to witness a force of nature: part old-school gospel preacher, part dad dancing at a wedding, and part Greek waiter looking for a plate to smash, Herring is just extraordinary to witness. He paces around the stage, beating his chest, punching the air, often slapping himself in the face, and now and again bursting into a guttural growl that most death metal vocalists would be proud of.

Future Islands

For this is a man who’s been THROUGH things. A man who has taken the mantra ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ and ran with it – expect that we can’t stop watching. At first, it’s a bit uncomfortable watching so much naked emotion emanating from one man – then it becomes oddly endearing, and then it just becomes almost unbearably moving. “This is a song about true love”, Herring introduces Sun In The Morning, “the sort of love that I used to have….if you find that kind of love Sheffield, don’t let it go”, before spending the next few minutes before bursting into such an impassioned performance you’d worry for him, were it not for the fact that he ends the song sporting a huge grin that would rival that of a Cheshire Cat.

Future Islands

It feels disrespectful of the band not to mention the other three members, but Future Islands are obviously comfortable with Herring being the focal point. Besides, the inscrutable expression of bassist William Cashion (currently bearing a disarming resemblance to Keith Lemon) makes for the perfect foil for Herring’s full-on theatrics – Cashion, together with drummer Michael Lowry and keyboardist Gerrit Welmers are quite happy to concentrate on creating the icy, melancholic synth sound that Future Islands perform so well.

Future Islands

The setlist is, as you’d expect, heavily focused on the Singles album, although they also find the time to throw in the odd B-side, and plenty of highlights from their back catalogue such as Tin Man and the brilliant Walking Through The Door. They even give two new songs, The Chase and Haunted, their world premieres, and both songs hint at an even brighter future for the band – reflective, poignant and yet utterly danceable.

Future Islands

Yet it’s Seasons (Waiting On You) that most of the crowd are here to witness, and it becomes something of a ‘moment’ – the whole of The Plug singing along with every word, arms aloft in the air, as Herring crouches, air-punches an imaginary opponent and bursts into the sort of dance moves that a pole-dancer would be proud of. The reaction of the audience as the closing chords die out is one of the loudest I’ve ever heard in all my years of going to gigs.

Future Islands

It’s taken them a while to break into the big time, but the reaction tonight seems to indicate that they’re in our hearts to stay. And, in the words of a certain, soon to retire, TV host, oh buddy, we’ll take all of that you’ve got.

Future Islands

Setlist:

Back in the Tall Grass
Sun in the Morning
A Dream of You and Me
Walking Through That Door
Balance
Before the Bridge
Doves
The Chase
Tomorrow
Haunted
A Song for Our Grandfathers
Light House
Seasons (Waiting on You)
Tin Man
Long Flight
Spirit

Encore:

Vireo’s Eye
Inch of Dust
Fall from Grace

Leave a Reply