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Review: Future Islands are captivating at the o2 Apollo

  • Friday 24th November saw Baltimore's Future Islands perform in Manchester.

Any gig at Manchester’s o2 Apollo is destined to be a special one. With it’s grand interiors, sloping floor, a prominently cheery Mancunian crowd… and the smell of old crayons that never seems to shift.

And this is expressed by Future Islands’ frontman Samuel T. Herring, too, as he enters the stage and stands before his crowd as a silhouette against a haunting blue backdrop and says: “fuck it’s good to be here Manchester. To me, you’re the real capital city”.

The crowd are already hooked before Herring even begins to shake the scale of ordinary so incredulously, that the night is made unforgettable.

I’ve heard him described as a dad-dancer, as the quiet guy in the office who has had a few too many drinks at the Christmas party and even as a psychotic headteacher but with the clean-cut shirt, tight black jeans and the mutton chops complete with a slightly balding head… it’s easy to see where these descriptions have come from.

As the 3-piece band are elevated around him, he is given his own area to move around. And move he does… like a caged animal set free.

From the squats that make even the biggest gym buff look weak to the leaps that take him from one side of the stage to the other in a single stride, the perfectly timed step dances to the heaving chest pumps that disrupt his singing, and the downright strange hip-grinding, sensual moments Herring has with himself…. I found it simply impossible to look away; impossible to define him or his stage presence to a single word or phrase.

This carefully constructed but somehow totally sporadic set up is echoed in Herring’s voice, too. His is one that will grab the attention of even the most stubborn ears. It’s an utterly addictive throaty rasp, an almost hardcore metal growl, and a delicious purr in quick succession.

They open with ‘In The Fall’ from their so-titled 2010 EP to which Herring searches to meet eyes with every single member of the audience. Followed by the popular single ‘Ran’ and crowd-favourite ‘A Dream of You and Me’ where we see Herring’s performance border on theatrical as he sings “I asked myself for peace/And found a piece of me/Staring at the sea”, reaching for the ground as if to grab something and holding it close to his chest.

While Herring prowls the stage, band members Gerrit Welmers on keyboard and William Cashion on guitar do what they do best: they play. Barely looking up from their instruments, they radiate an air of effortlessness as their 80s-esque, synth-pop beats make it hard for the audience to even attempt to stand still.

The highlight of the night, somewhat expectedly, came when the familiar opening to “Seasons (Waiting On You)” started. The lyrics express a longing, and he portrays that as he stares out into the crowd as if searching for one person in particular - he has a unique power in inviting the audience into an almost fantasy state where each song is a story we are all dreaming of in unison.

As the night draws to a close, the rules are broken as Herring introduces one final, unplanned song. One of the first songs they wrote as a band back in 2006, Herring says with a hand to his heart: “this is for Julia. I will always be dreaming of you.”

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