Live Music: Future Islands at Vicar Street

Anyone who enjoys rooting for the underdog will find Future Islands hard to resist. 

Led by a balding 30-something whose stage routine involves lurching back and forth like someone’s dad at a wedding, and staffed by a rag-tag of geeks and droopy mustachioed outsiders, the band have become unlikely mainstream heroes — thanks, in large part, to a meme-generating turn on David Letterman’s show this year.

In the spot — since viewed millions of times on YouTube — the North Carolina group performed their single, ‘Seasons’, as if their lives, careers and the wellbeing of family and pets depended on it. Wobbling, waggling, practically turning handstands, frontman Samuel Herring was both charismatic and ridiculous — an irresistible formula when paired with the band’s often wistful music (the wailing synths imbue his prat-falling with a sad, poetic quality).

“I’ll take all that ya got,” said Letterman, springing from his seat to shake Herring’s hand. He is not alone in his enthusiasm. The last time Future Islands played Dublin the concert was up the road at the cosy Whelan’s venue. They returned for two sell out evenings at Vicar Street and visibly reveled in what, from their perspective, must feel like overnight fame a decade in the making.

Up close, Herring was as hypnotic as his YouTube fame suggests. Sweaty and verging on rotund, it was absurd that he should be fronting a buzzy rock band — a contradiction that made you want to cheer him all the louder. He was an energetic ring-master, too, whipping the über-fans up the front to a cheerful frenzy as the rest of the line-up, standing perfectly still, proceeded through their repertoire of bittersweet, New Order-esque dirges.

That Future Islands have avoided the one hit wonder tag is a testament to the quality of their writing, but also to the fact that most of their songs sound like a variation of the formula buffed to perfection on Seasons.

By the time they got around to their break-out smash ( generously they did not require the attendance to wait until the encore ) the night was already a triumph: a reminder that, in music, as in life, sometimes the ideas that shouldn’t come together — an unapologetically nerdy indie band fronted by a sweat-drenched middle aged man say — are the ones that work out best.


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