Let there be no doubt, much of Baltimore’s Future Islands’ recent success/exposure/overkill is down to the dance moves of frontman Samuel T Herring. Initially coming to broad attention from a massively overviewed Late Show performance, once you get past that tired headline, what are you left with?
Well, while it’s true the band have played Brighton numerous times in the last eight years (they even thanked promoters One Inch Badge at the beginning of their largest show in the city on Sunday), at any of these gigs – pre or post Late Show – they were utterly joyous and well worth seeing. But Sunday’s Dome gig felt off balance, with the other three band members seeming a touch insignificant, session players almost, constantly just waiting for the next improvised move from their singer. The crowd’s reaction was even more awkward, with the largest cheers of the night repeatedly going not to what Herring sang or said, but how he moved.
But what moves! He slinked, schlepped, posed and grappled with the air on the Dome’s stage, dressed like Steve from the accounts department, What’s more, the trademark Future Islands sound – guitar free, bass and synth heavy and always seemingly at the same pace – never once competed with Herring’s moves, except during that song (‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’). The gravelly, often comical baritone which he can often drop down into was also kept pretty much under wraps for the first hour, but when dispatched it served as a reminder of the contrasts that make the group so unusual.
A sea of raised arms and camera phones greeted the beginning of practically every song, but again, it was Herring’s moves – one part Cossack to two parts angry crab – that stole the show. Much of the set felt like a festival warm-up, and some fans did indeed sit atop one another’s shoulders to complete this impression. The more euphoric builds and drops of newer material from new album ‘The Far Field’ sounded destined to fill a festival main stage this summer. But Future Islands find themselves having all their eggs in one basket – a Herring shaped basket – and you were left feeling the music needs to return to the fore before any further seismic advances will take place.
Brighton Dome, Sunday 30th April 2017
Words by Jake Kennedy
Photos by Mike Tudor