Review: Future Islands live @ Sound Control, May 8th 2014

Andrew Williams witnesses first hand the bravado and showmanship of Future Islands and their strutting frontman Samuel Herring. Read his review here.

Jimmy Coultas

Date published: 13th May 2014

Image: Future Islands (from their first Manchester show in 2009)

There surely can’t be a front man around who is as enigmatic as Samuel Herring of Future Islands. At a sold out Sound Control on Thursday 8th May 2014, the pain and the passion is written all over his face as he growls and jigs sweatily through renditions of the tracks from his band's latest release Singles (stream below), alongside various numbers from their previous three albums.

There are many profound messages on offer during the evening, with tales of life in Baltimore, describing vast oceans, expansive fields, long open roads and lost love. All painting an image of a man who is battling with a wealth of emotions, Herring truly wears his heart on his sleeve.

One minute the stocky, balding front man is chatting casually with the packed room before the onus instantaneously changes, as he unleashes his theatrics and showcases his erratic dancing, playing the role of both singer and entertainer.

Tracks like ‘Sun In the Morning’ sound much meatier live, during ‘Song for Our Grandfathers’, Herring’s trademark dance moves are replaced by a wholehearted and melodramatic acting performance. 

During the anthemic ‘Seasons (Waiting for you)’, he struts confidently, adopting clenched fists and a fierce stare whilst thumping his broad chest. Herring steals the show; in fact he is the show, whilst his band members duly complete their tasks of providing the noise for their leader and left field icon.  

The intensities that he displays during his performance disappear between tracks as his humility is there for all to see. A man with what seems like two distinct personalities, the performer who exudes self belief and the nervous yet chirpy man who cheekily addresses the crowd as ‘motherfuckers’ in his thick Baltimore accent. 

But as soon as the synths hit at the start of each song, Herring becomes consumed by the sounds created by his fellow band members and his clichéd yet undeniably emotive lyrics. Herring also strangely threatens to break into a ‘death metal’ growl throughout the evening. 

Future Islands may consist of William Cashion on bass, Denny Bowen on drums and synth player Gerrit Welmers but it is really all about their enigmatic frontman. Take nothing away from from the rest of the outfit, but the thrusting and aggressive dynamism of their leader is what really gets punters through the door. 

The older and less well known songs hold their own against those from this years release, but it is the tracks from ‘Singles’ which are received most warmly. The laid back, thumping ‘Doves’ is another license for Herring to begin outrageously thrusting, whilst intermittently glaring, skipping and jolting. His tight black t-shirt now drenched in sweat, Herring writhes on the dirty floor before jumping up to continue manically serenade those on the front row. 

Future Islands have come a long way since the last time they played in Manchester during 2011. Partly due to their opinion splitting performance on Letterman but mainly down to a clear resilience and self-belief in their art. Admirably, they are still dancing, despite having received little critical success since their inception in 2006. Herring and co are now fully enjoying their day in the sun, inventing a few new moves along the way.

This show was promoted by Now Wave. Check out all their other events via their group here.

Fancy heading to Sound Control soon? Head here for their respective upcoming events.