Live Review: Future Islands

O2 ABC – 4/11

Overbearing crowd control? Check. Intimacy-ruining gap between stage and audience? Yup. Unusually wide venue? Got that. Baltimore synthpop outfit Future Islands had much to overcome in order to bridge the gap between live show and emotional experience. But man, did they manage it.

The quartet has all its energy concentrated on one point: lead singer Samuel T Herring gives his audience no choice but to feel his performance. On record, his throaty and powerful voice would normally be enough to make him stand out as a performer. However, it’s almost impossible to overstate how intense an experience a Future Islands gig is. Herring flies around the stage, his strange, full-body dancing carrying him fluidly about until he suddenly charges from one side to the other. He beats his chest during particularly emotional verses; he gets on his knees and slaps himself in the face (sending sweat – in which he’s drenched after just two songs – flying); he renders entire lines of lyrics unintelligible with a sudden guttural roar; he rips off one of his t-shirt sleeves, yet makes no more damage to his clothing throughout the gig, as if that were done without really thinking. He wears all black tonight, as if his body is a simple stagehand to the display of raw emotion on show.

But this isn’t something to watch from afar, a few songs in Herring speaks in the ear of the front-and centre security person, who reluctantly moves aside. From here on, Herring reaches out to audience members who surge forward to touch his hand. During ‘Before the Bridge’ he moves along the front row asking everyone individually the line “Do you believe in love?” After the last song he jumps off the stage and runs along the barrier embracing as many bodies as possible – it’s impossible not to feel connected.

It’s wonderful to see this band finally get the recognition they deserve. For an audience ranging from in-the-know 18-20 somethings and people of a somewhat older generation, everybody was united in the unrestricted joy pouring out of this wild figure under the spotlights.

[Ciaran McQueen]  

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