Live music review: Future Islands, Cork Opera House

Since supporting Dan Deacon at Andrew’s Lane Theatre in Dublin and playing to 14 people in Whelan’s later that year, 2009, the trajectory for Future Islands has been on a steep upward curve.

An acclaimed indie band, releasing a couple albums on the Thrill Jockey label, they signed to 4AD — home of the National, whose rise Future Islands echo — for breakout album Singles, putting in a show-stopping performance on David Letterman’s show along the way.

A couple years on from two sold-out shows at Vicar Street, they stopped off in Cork Opera House as part of an Irish tour this week — oh how far they’ve come.

While the band and sound tread familiar ground — albeit delicious synth lines slathered in slinky bass — frontman Samuel T Herring is like no other. 

After thanking the support act, rising Glasgow darlings Sacred Paws, he declares: “OK I’mma shut up, let’s make some music.”

And then he’s slapping his forehead - hard — on opener ‘Back in the Tall Grass’, limbering up for that GIF-friendly side-to-side dance during ‘A Dream of You and Me’ before descending, literally, into some Russian squat dancing.

Nobody can win a crowd over like Herring does in those first 15 minutes. He thumps his chest, prowls and stalks the stage, reaches out to the front row, throws his arms about with the controlled abandon of an Olympic ribbon gymnast, gyrates like it’s 2am in the club, and high-kicks like your embarrassing uncle at a wedding. 

The crowd at the sold-out Opera House laps it up.

It’s impossible to take your eyes off Herring’s antics — yet they don’t distract from the power of the songs, which make a lasting connection. 

“I don’t know what to do, I’m scared,” he sings on ‘Through The Roses’, before proclaiming in a rousing chorus: “We can pull through, together.”

‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ is revelatory. By the end of this triumphant 24-song set, there are groups in the crowd with their arms around each other, drinks in the air, bellowing along with Herring on pre-Singles track ‘Vireo’s Eye’: “We, we’re not kings here, we’re just strangers.”

Future Islands are everything you want your favourite band to be.

Star Rating: 4/5


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