Complete with stage invasion
Future Islands - Live At Scala, London

Once in a blue moon, a singer appears who captivates their audience with a mesmerising performance. It happens far too rarely with front men, who all too often are happy to mumble a couple of salutations before churning through yet another gig. So the presence of Sam Herring, Future Islands' singer, is a welcome salve to the drought of captivating male performers at the moment.

Not that he's anything like you'd expect him to be when listening to his band's music - the soulful, sometimes guttural, voice that drips with emotion over the wheeling synths and pounding bass, paints a picture of a tortured soul, weedy in his interactions. Not so Herring, who bounds onstage with the enthusiasm of a puppy, swearing from the off and reminding Clash, bizarrely, of Jack Black. “Fuck, right?! There are an awful lot of y'all. You look beautiful tonight,” he says, before announcing opener ‘Give Us The Wind’.

As the band starts playing Herring immediately transforms, face contorted, and thrashes around the stage, playing out the songs with the conviction of a Shakespearean actor. At times he appeals to the heavens before dropping down into a crouch, he starts slapping himself in the face at the start of crowd pleaser ‘Inch Of Dust’, and even mimes leading someone through a doorway for ‘Walking Through That Door’.

A lesser performer would have made the whole thing feel horribly contrived, however the unwavering, mainly static turns of Gerrit Welmers and William Cashion on keys and guitars respectively act as a foil to Herring's dramatic jester.

Clash wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled out a skull and started to proclaim about poor Yorick. Instead, he pulls out a pair of long johns between songs to mop his sweaty brow.

As it is, everyone joins the trio on their cosmic journey, hearts open and happily jumping around to highlights ‘Tin Man’, ‘Before The Bridge’ and ‘Long Flight’.

Suddenly, shit gets crazy. Cashion pulls someone up onto the stage to dance, then Herring invites someone else up from the front row. Before they know it, they’re overwhelmed by a mob of dancing fans who’ve poured onto the stage, completely lost in the moment, until the sound cuts out.

“Shit, there are a lot of you up here! I didn’t realise!” exclaims Herring, while the troops make their way offstage. In the aftermath, the disruption has messed with the synths, leaving Herring and Cashion to play a stripped-back version of ‘Heart Grows Old’, perfectly showcasing both the post-punk brilliance of the bassist, and the power of the singer’s voice.

There’s one more speech before the end of the show – Herring is fond of speeches – thanking first UK label Upset The Rhythm for their support in the early years, and the fans for coming to their biggest gig. They’re visibly moved, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

And so the last few songs come and go in the blink of an eye, until closer ‘Vireo’s Eye’ is whipped through, the driving beat running out all too quickly. Called back onstage for an encore, they play only one song – the bossanova lullaby of ‘Little Dreamer’, whose closing lyrics are an apt way to round the night off: “And as we say goodnight / I hold you close and tight / No more raging suns, only waning ones / Like the waxing scar where my lonely heart / Once bloomed before I met you / My little dreamer, I'll always / Always dream of you.”

Words by Laura Foster
Photo by Matt Wash

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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