Future Islands at All Points East: Wild frontman lifts pedestrian rock songs to impressive heights
- Credit: Archant
Part Godfather, part screaming death metal demon, Samuel T Herring channels so many wildly divergent influences that it can be downright confusing to watch him.
But Future Islands’ frontman is also one of the most compelling rock singers around, roaring his way through an hour-long set while deploying moves that evoke everything from disco-dancing dad to violent despair in the space of seconds.
Periodically he pounds his chest so hard the thud is clearly audible through the mic he holds more than a foot away. Then, seconds later, he’s goofing around asking the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to keyboardist Gerrit Welmers, like we didn’t all just witness something dark and animalistic breaking out of him.
There’s plenty to enjoy, with old favourite Balance and newer song Time on Her Side among the highlights – not to mention the 2014 single that broke them into the just-about-big time, Seasons (Waiting on You).
But this mechanically precise band and its theatrical, perplexing singer make every moment worth watching, even for someone who isn’t usually the biggest fan of their material. If you can bring casual viewers along for a ride this eccentric, you’d be a sound addition to any festival lineup.
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Birthdays aside, Herring’s between-song banter is peculiarly formal, even reverent, something like James Stewart doing a Sean Connery impression, or perhaps vice versa. He’s so well mannered as to be an anachronism, and plenty humble – he seems a lot more surprised than we are that Future Islands are so high up the bill for the festival’s main stage.
If there’s a complaint, it’s that the band seem to have found a groove that works for them and appear reluctant to push out of it. The riffs sparkle out of the mix, the choruses are hooky if a bit strange, and Herring gives everything 110 per cent. But just as on record, the band’s 1980s-tinged guitar plod can be a little samey, even pedestrian, though Herring’s throaty delivery undoubtedly lifts Future Islands out of the crowd.
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But you can’t fault them as performers. With the sunshine beating down on Victoria Park, they’re a force to be reckoned with.