Future Islands @ MTelus

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Last time I saw Future Islands, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler made a guest appearance during the epic Seasons (Waiting On You).  Tonight, I’m right behind guitarist Tim Kingsbury in the line to collect my ticket.  Hey, any band that gets the Arcade Fire stamp of approval is always gonna get mine too!

In all my years of going to shows, I’ve never seen a band quite like Future Islands.  Or more specifically, a frontman like Samuel T. Herring.  Many have danced, prowled, and generally owned the stage, but none have been quite as visually captivating as him.  You honestly cannot fathom how he can do this night in, night out, year after year.  Announcing the name of every single song in advance is mightily helpful for this reviewer trying to keep track of the set as well!  After entering the stage in near-total darkness, the set kicks off with Grease, and already the Sam show begins, throwing all kinds of shapes and mixing up his regular singing voice (which isn’t all that far from his talking voice, one would imagine) with the kind of guttural growl that typically resides at a death-metal show.  That same growl reappears on numerous occasions throughout the rest of the set, most notably on Seasons and Before The Bridge.  Hit The Coast sees him roam the stage like a punk-rock frontman, all the while clasping his fingertips together vertically upwards and gesticulating as if he was an Italian Nonno explaining the meaning of life.  The sweat is pouring off his face by the time the amazing Plastic Beach comes around 6 songs in, with Sam appearing to be in tears as the song wraps up.  Little Dreamer, which arrives in the encore, evokes an even stronger emotional response.  Sam explains the context behind the song, being about a person who “went away” from him many years ago, and which they have played at every show since, and you wonder how he manages to hold it together like that on a nightly basis, given that half of the crowd are in bits by the end!

That’s not to say it’s all serious, all the time.  Sam makes glorious use of his sweaty frame on Long Flight by performing an outrageous frontal belly slide across the stage akin to that performed by celebrating soccer players; again, in all my years of shows, I never saw such a manoeuvre!  On For Sure, he’s pointing at invisible fish in the press pit at the front (that’s my interpretation anyway…), whilst on Lighthouse, he’s pointing out individual faces in the crowd whilst saying the “you know” line over and over.

Of course, it would be remiss to neglect the rest of the band who hold it all down, relatively in the background, but who are integral to creating the unique sound of Future Islands.  With no regular guitars on stage, William Cashion’s bass is the primary source of their trademark funk rhythm and direction and is truly the star of the show on songs like A Dream of You and Me and For Sure.  Gerrit Welmer’s keys create the truly retro 80s vibes of Peach and King Of Sweden, and props to drummer Michael Lowry, who somehow plays the entire set fully masked (hey, I’m not the only one in the room still with a mask on after all!).  It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite song from the set, though the goosebumps that arrive at the onset of new song The Painter probably just shades it.  It’s a song that hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I heard it on the new record, and live, it’s even bigger, with that delicate-yet-thunderous bassline to start, and of course, Sam’s mesmerizing performance, contorting his body at all kinds of angles to pin up his own eyelids, much like that classic scene from A Clockwork Orange.

The show lasts almost 2 hours, but it feels like it’s over in an instant; always a sure sign that it was amazing.  At the start of the set, Sam had proclaimed: “we’ve been coming to Montreal for 13 years now; we missed you!”  We missed you too guys; don’t ever stop coming!

Setlist

  1. Grease
  2. Hit the Coast
  3. For Sure
  4. Sun in the Morning
  5. Peach
  6. Plastic Beach
  7. Walking Through That Door
  8. Balance
  9. Before the Bridge
  10. Light House
  11. Moonlight
  12. A Dream of You and Me
  13. The Painter
  14. Ancient Water
  15. King of Sweden
  16. Seasons (Waiting on You)
  17. Long Flight
  18. Tin Man
  19. Fall from Grace

Encore

  1. Inch of Dust
  2. Vireo’s Eye
  3. Little Dreamer

OH, ROSE opened the show.

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Ryley Remedios

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