Before 2014, Future Islands hadn’t been on the radar of many music fans in the UK. Then the Baltimore band released their fourth album, Singles, and delivered a memorable performance on Jools Holland’s show, stealing the hearts of awkward dancers everywhere. It’s these performances that appeared to have dragged the majority of people to Plug on a Sunday evening, as everyone wanted to see if frontman Samuel T. Herring really does dance like that live. FYI – he does.
Future Islands’ performance was engaging from the outset. Opening up with Back in the Tall Grass, Sun in the Morning and A Dream of You and Me from the band’s most recent album, fans were treated to those trademark side steps and vocal growls.
Moving onto older tracks, there were clusters of fans dotted throughout the venue who hung on to every lyric that was delivered, and moving with the same passion that Samuel does during their tracks. To those who’d only dropped by based on the pretty bonkers clips you can find of the band on YouTube, the older material didn’t seem too unfamiliar to the songs from Singles, allowing both old and new fans to feel engaged with what the band were performing.
Future Islands used their short tour of the UK to debut two tracks, ‘The Chase’ and ‘Haunted’. It’s always a risk when bands do this as it can always leave an awkward lull in the middle of the set, but the response was great, with Herring, once again, carrying the crowd and maintaining their attention through a series of bizarre but captivating gestures.
The highlight of the set came just before the encore when they broke out into the opening synth keys from ‘Seasons (Waiting on You)’. Evidently a firm favourite of everyone, as the crowd went wild, singing along with every word and cheering wildly as Herring roared the lyrics and performed a sexy body roll.
It was fantastic to see someone who was so passionate, carefree and fulfilled by what they were doing, and demonstrating that through some pretty bold (and at points, insane) dance moves. Sadly, the moves precede the bands reputation, with many having only turned up to see Herring pull some shapes.
The other three members who make up the remaining portion of Future Islands look pretty unenthused throughout the set. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I don’t think anyone could handle four blokes jumping around a stage the same way as Herring, but that can be forgiven as they sound great, something that isn’t worth sacrificing for a kicking slut-drop move (yeah, that happened).
Unfortunately, if it wasn’t for their frontman, this band wouldn’t have much left. Yes, they do sound great live, and their albums are okay if not a bit samey, but musically they’re not edgy or mind-blowing. Herring has a talent for writing lyrics, and from the audience reaction, that seems to really strike a chord with the fans. In addition to good penmanship when it comes to lyrics, Herring is engaging, entertaining and spontaneous, delivering a performance that you’re frightened to look away from in case he does something else strange. But without that, they’d probably be just another indie synth-pop band.