Live review: Future Islands at Vicar Street

It’s a chilly November evening, the first real cold of a mild year, but you wouldn’t have known it at 9:35 in Vicar Street on Monday night, with the sell-out crowd’s anticipation creating an atmosphere crackling with electric warmth as they awaited the arrival onstage of Future Islands. The power of Sam T. Herring is apparent before he’s even set foot on stage, a cult of personality already constructed in people’s minds following that magical Letterman appearance that made him an overnight internet sensation. The crowd are baying with warm adoration as the band emerge and Herring greets us with a grin and his Carolina drawl; “How y’all doing tonight? We had so much fun last night and now we get to do it all over again!” What followed was something special.

Bassist William Cashion and keyboardist Gerrit Welmers form, alongside touring drummer Mike Lowry, an excellent live band, both anchoring and propelling the show – Welmers’ Peter Hook bass lines are a delight. It is they that allow Herring to shine.

Herring is a ferocious bundle of barely controlled energy on stage, his movements channelling the feeling and spirit of the songs and laying them naked and raw for the audience to connect with, and connect they did. From the first pounding chest-thumps during opener “Give Us the Wind”, to the savage, guttural howls of encore highlight “Fall from Grace”, from the high kicks during “Sun in the Morning” to the snake hips during “Doves,” Sam T. Herring, with his movements and his voice, holds the audience rapt and malleable in the palm of his hand

It’s the perceived sincerity of his actions that sets him apart though – no matter how outlandish he gets, no matter if he’s lunging at the monitors like a crazed predator, gazing into the rafters and reaching out for who he’s lost or miming the act of ripping his own beating heart out, it never sets him apart from the ordinary audience member – who in the intimate surrounds of Vicar Street can all see in his eyes the emotion that fuels the antics.

It’s safe to say that every member of the 1500 capacity venue over their two-night stint left feeling like they’d established a personal connection with Sam T. Herring at one moment or another. Mine came during Light House, a song “about what a friend said to me when I was going through some dark times,” Herring explained. He crouched at the front of the stage and looked people deep in the eyes while imparting his friend’s message: “you know, what you know is better, is brighter.”

I left Vicar St. that night believing exactly that.

Stephen Keegan

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