Future Islands **
Since their breakthrough performance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2014, this Baltimore trio have divided witnesses into those who have been utterly charmed by their throwback synth pop and those who can’t quite believe that they, or more specifically their remarkably earnest singer Samuel T Herring, are serious.
Herring is the sort of atypical frontman who gives hope to the hopeless.
In dancing like no one is watching, he has succeeded in getting everyone watching, be it in admiration, horror or somewhere in between. Aspiring boy bands could learn from his show of chest-beating belief. And as for the voice…let’s just say that his combination of disturbing gyrations, animalist howling, and incidences of what sound like demonic possession, are wholly unexpected explosive devices in what would otherwise be safe middle-of-the-road musical territory – of a piece with the vaguely tuneful and thus eminently radio-friendly 80s-tinged synth pop/rock peddled by The Killers, but with far more jarring, gruff and mannered vocals.
Herring’s indistinct bellowing on A Dream of You and Me strayed perilously close to pub singer territory, and there were other moments during this two-hour set when the poor sound mix, dominated by bass and a bland, benevolent wall of synthesizer, came as something of a mercy.
As the evening wore on, the more monotonous slower numbers exposed the lack of dynamic range. It is little wonder that Herring has become the sideshow, his entertaining high kicking generating the biggest cheer of the night beyond the unveiling of Seasons (Waiting On You). Their best and best loved song is an undeniably pleasant tune, although Herring did manage to make the wistful thought that “I’ve been waiting on you” sound more like a threat.
The encore juxtaposed old and new. One of their earliest songs, Beach Foam, was a rough, rawer ride but the moody torch song Black Rose, from latest album The Far Field, showed they are capable of working on a bigger canvas, with Herring rising to the occasion in his melodramatic delivery.