26th November 2014

Live: Future Islands

Future Islands set the bar high for the future of musical performance

1st November

Manchester Cathedral


“I told my Dad I wouldn’t swear too much,” says Samuel T. Herring, gazing around the cathedral. “I’ve got to say this is one of those most beautiful venues we’ve ever played in.”

In deadly combination, and probably Pitchfork’s wet dream, Future Islands played in Manchester Cathedral on 1st November at Columns Festival.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, you’ll most likely have been in a heavy coma or maybe into Calvin Harris, as 2014 really has been a year of no escaping. The band is from Baltimore and is comprised of three weird men with even weirder moves who look a decade older than their 30 years. Ever since that iconic performance of ‘Seasons’ on the Letterman show, the trio are only spiralling in success. And after eight years and with four albums in tow, it seems rightly so.

There is little introduction after the vocalist waltzes on stage, preceded by bassist William Cashion, Gerrit Welmers on keys and touring drummer, Michael Lowry.

The darkness of the cathedral provides careful intimacy between band and crowd as the bass of ‘Back in the Tall Grass’ begins. The transformation takes place. If you’ve watched said Letterman video, you’ll know what I mean. His hips gyrate, he sucks his fingers, he caresses his body like his anaconda don’t. He weaves this between singing into the eyes of every immediate crowd member; now I know what it is to see a grown man melt.

The other band members are mostly static; Welmers bobs about, pressing each key daintily, as though made of porcelain. Cassion is skilled at prohibiting any emotion from his face, but even better at playing the bass. Importantly though, it doesn’t seem out of boredom. This is how they do things. Live, the show is really about Herring. It’s about his performance and creating a connection with their audience.

The band move quickly through songs through the hour set. Pop gems of the latest album contrast with brooding dark moments from previous records. It reverberates throughout the cathedral, generating a weird amalgamation of sugary, haunting music.

‘A Dream of You and Me’ is great. Almost uncomfortably honest, he wants to show us exactly what this song means to him. ‘Seasons’ not so, seeming a little detached from the band, the connection perhaps blurred after the many times they’ve performed it.

Then there’s the synth-heavy ‘Walking Through that Door’. It’s intense and erratic, and as the synth climaxes Herring raises his hand up to the rooftops, stares into the distance and lets out a guttural roar. Ethereal swirls of light are projected onto the stain glass windows, a red light glows on his face. He looks completely demonic.

It’s a massive juxtaposition next to ‘A Song For my Grandfathers’, after which he cries. He cries twice in fact; like a toddler, his big face crumbles, his lips wobble, it’s grisly raw emotion and it’s fascinating to watch. His energy is a wonderful relief that makes you wonder why no other performer allows us this honesty.

But although unadulterated and unembarrassed; you wonder how anyone can sustain giving so much, so relentlessly. The show was wonderful and sets the bar way high for the future of musical performance. But in this temperamental moment of success, it’s worth considering how the band will manage to maintain their trademark honesty whilst remaining genuine.

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