Live Review: Future Islands

4 August 2014 | 4:29 pm | Gabrielle Easter

Frontman Samuel Herring gave the enigmatic performance the crowd wanted

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From an indistinguishable baseball-capped man watching the crowd wind around from Corner Hotel’s entrance, Future Islands lead singer Samuel T Herring transforms into a preacher on stage, commanding his congregation with sermons of heartache and pain, darkness and light.

This reincarnation of Marlon Brando beats his chest and dances across stage.

With each lesson comes a stern finger wag of warning or a meaningful faraway glance – this man has a lot of feels and they’re etched across Herring’s face, built into every shaking movement as this reincarnation of Marlon Brando beats his chest and dances across stage. Keyboardist Gerrit Welmers and guitarist William Cashion never miss a beat, keeping their heads down and getting the job done diligently and quietly (or they’re maybe just exhausted off the back of Splendour In The Grass and an east coast tour), alongside a touring drummer that smashes it as hard as Herring tears up his vocals.

They tick off the hits from Singles (their fourth album, which was released earlier this year) – from Sun In The Morning to A Dream Of You And Me – with Herring never ceasing to command the stage, all while offering tidbits of love advice. It’s New Romantic-meets-indie-pop-meets-<insert overused genre here>, with enough grit and sex and guttural growls to stain that clean indie image that most bands can’t shake.

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Herring body rolls and twists enough to make Travolta jealous, and brings out the good ol’ ballad for A Song For Our Grandfathers. With every low sweep and chest thump comes a whoop from the crowd, eager for more glimpses of the dance moves made famous off the back of that Letterman appearance. As Seasons (Waiting On You) sneaks in, it’s clear that the crowd is here to see those moves and Herring, obligingly, goes through the motions. It feels stagey, it feels overdone and it feels like you’re watching a hyperactive child relishing in the attention of his audience, but you still can’t help but be drawn in by the enigmatic charm of the talented frontman. 

Future Islands make you wait for their encore, bleeding out the crowd, testing patience and loyalty like few bands bother to these days. Fall From Grace, an eerie tune reminiscent of Twin Peaks, brings the band back before the images of Laura Palmer fade and Future Islands say goodnight with Little Dreamer.

If you walk away with just two things from a Future Islands gig, it’s that Marlon Brando was a babe and heartfelt ballads needs to make a comeback.