Thursday 22 February 2018

Review Rock: Future Islands, Vicar Street, Dublin

Sam T. Herring of Future Islands. Picture: Colm Kelly.
Sam T. Herring of Future Islands. Picture: Colm Kelly.
John Meagher

John Meagher

There is no shortage of frontmen who exude a studied cool on stage. Shades on and standing ridgidly in front of the mic, they give the impression of not caring if the audience likes them or not.

Samuel T Herring, the singer in Baltimore-based band Future Islands, couldn't be further from such frontmen. A veritable fireball of energy, he appears incapable of staying still as he dances maniacally about the stage. Whether he's doing a strange version of a moonwalk, sashaying provocatively or thumping his chest with such force as to cause his cardiologist to have palpitations, you simply can't take your eyes off him.

Some would argue that Future Islands' rapid rise in popularity in 2014 is as much down to his eye-catching performance on David Letterman's primetime show as it is to the band's superb fourth album, the appropriately named Singles. And when Herring lists the intimate venues his band played in Ireland up to this point, one senses that he is almost as taken aback by Future Islands' new-found success as he is.

But he's more than just a 'free-form' dancer with no inhibitions: Herring comes armed with a batch of really excellent songs that manage to be both catchy and cerebral.

The lion's share of the set is taken from Singles and the songs are delivered in a muscular, urgent fashion. The synth-led 'Sun in the Morning' sounds especially compelling while 'A Dream of You and Me' cuts to the emotional quick even if Herring's lascivious dance moves are somewhat distracting.

Breakthrough single 'Seasons (Waiting On You)' offers a thrilling reminder of the band's gifts and as he is often prone to do throughout the night, Herring sings some lines with a primeval, guttarl howl. But there are moments of subtlety too - not least on the touching 'A Song for Our Grandfathers' towards the end.

Although he is very much the focal point of the band, the contribution of Herring's bandmates - keyboardist Gerrit Welmers, bassist William Cashion and touring drummer Mike Lowry - should not be overlooked. Who needs guitars when said trio can ratchet up a dance-pop racket as appealing as this?

The Future Islands live experience lacks some of the light and shade of their recorded work and there are times where Herring's frenzied performance comes at the expense of his singing, but for the most part this is a band firmly seizing their moment in the spotlight.

Irish Independent

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