Future Islands – O2 Brixton Academy – 20.11.17

Way back when, before YouTube views were statistics used to make an act sound huge without actually selling any records, seeing a band live for the first time might actually be the first time to witness them and the connections to their songs. Sure, mimed TV spots (like Top Of The Pops, soon to be dusted off for its annual Christmas outting) were there, but one-song in a TV studio was barely an experience. One of the exceptions to the rule is Future Islands, who performed the lead single from their third studio album, Singles, on American TV. A star was born in the form of the equal parts charming and alarming frontman Samuel T Herring, and the rest is of course a history that can be replayed within a mere few seconds.

With this in mind, as well as a catalogue of clips that showcase how this performance wasn’t a one off, even first timers to Future Islands live have a good idea of what to expect. Like Dunkirk in IMAX, seeing this band live is incredibly entertaining, but it’s bloody intense too. The evening kicks off a hat trick of dates at O2 Brixton Academy, and while this could lead the the assumption that Future Islands could find themselves headlining arenas by the time their next album comes around, this shouldn’t be the case.

Samuel’s performance is one that needs to be seen through your own eyes rather than a screen, but it’s also important to point out that it isn’t all leaps and bounds. When the band slow things down they’re equally mesmerising, and use this tactic to showcase a multitude of non-singles from their five LPs. Even some without live evidence online. Naturally, the audience switch from viewers to participants when the beat kicks in, as Walking Through That Door and Time On Her Side show, both showcasing hypnotic synth loops. Cave (from this year’s album, The Far Field) is another up-tempo highlight, which Herring dedicates “to all the right wing thinkers… Fuck you.”

It’s not the first time his views are shared, and while they’re prominent throughout his lyrics, the poetics are taken away when he’s given the gift of addressing people in their thousands. Despite speaking fondly of their hometown of Baltimore, it seems the same cannot be said of their country as a whole: “In my country they talk about the American dream, but that’s for white people. In my country they talk about the good old days, but that’s when people were in chains.” As with the right wing comment, his words are met with applause of agreement.

As well as being incredibly honest, Samuel (presumably speaking on behalf of his bandmates) appears humble, thanking fans with sincerity for attending: “If this is your first time – thank you. If this is your second time – thank you. If this is your third…” Well this was my eighth time, and I’m already counting down to their performance at All Points East next year. You might choose to believe that there’s some sort of novelty factor from the million of views on their Seasons video, and the shocked reactions from fans of something a little tamer, but seeing Samuel T Herring physically embody one of his songs live only goes to prove that Future Islands’ future looks set to be as compelling.

Images: Robert Gershinson

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