Gigs don’t often start with an apology, but the moment he appears on stage, Future Islands charismatic singer Samuel T. Herring is clearly keen to explain why tonight’s show was delayed from early May; it transpires that an appearance on Later…With Jools Holland precluded the band from making their scheduled Nottingham appearance last month. Future Islands, though, know a little about the power of TV. After forming in 2006 and for several years enjoying critical acclaim but a modest profile, a 2014 appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman in the USA launched the band into a whole new league, the extraordinary clip becoming the iconic show’s most-watched performance on YouTube.
This audience, however, is in no mood to bear a grudge and treats the band to a truly rapturous welcome which lasts for the entire show. A treat has already been served up in the shape of support band Bamboo. If you are looking them up, they are not the Filipino rock band, nor are they the 90s outfit who scored chart success with ‘Bamboogie‘, rather they are a mesmerizing group who record for Upset The Rhythm. Bamboo is the brainchild of Nick Carlisle (Peepholes, Don’t Argue) and Rachel Horwood (Trash Kit, Halo Halo), whose live incarnation also includes a drummer and bass player. Their set is largely taken from new album The Dragon Flies Away and is reminiscent of 90s heroes Earwig, with perhaps a dash of Stereolab. Their early performance goes down very well in an already full room.
Make no mistake though, the crowd has been drawn here by the incredible stage presence of Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring, who prowls the stage in his trademark manner, turning in a truly staggering performance that surely makes everyone in the room wonder how he can operate at this level of intensity night after night. “This song is for a thousand shows and two thousand nights out on the road”, says Herring before a mighty rendering of recent single ‘Run’, from new album The Far Field, which provides half a dozen or so tracks in a show which draws from the band’s five studio albums.
As Herring ducks and weaves, alternately punching the sky (and himself!) and reaching for the stars, the audience gets ever more feverish, huge roars greeting his every move as he sings and dances as if his life depends on it; Herring seems incapable of giving anything less than complete devotion to his band’s music.
Breakthrough album Singles‘ final track, ‘A Dream Of You And Me’ is wonderful, bass player William Cashion driving the song along, together with keyboard player Gerrit Welmers (and touring drummer Michael Lowry) seemingly happy to be in the considerable shadow of their unique singer. Surprisingly, Herring admits that he was feeling “tired and worried” backstage, but assures the crowd that their reception is giving him the energy he needs.
When that song, ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ comes along towards the end of the set, it is an utterly celebratory moment and takes things up yet another notch, when it seemed impossible to do so.
An, erm, spirited version of ‘Spirit’ brings the show to a close for now, before the band return and play an intro long enough to allow Herring a bit of ‘fresh air’: “I needed a cigarette, I couldn’t breathe!” he advises. It’s one of those encores that seems genuine, rather than pre-planned; Herring informs the audience that “We’ve got one more for you” no less than three times, leading to a five-song finale, including a tender version of early track ‘Little Dreamer’.
No-one here tonight will ever want to miss Future Islands when they next return to these parts. Long may they soar.