Future Islands are one of those bands that I listened to for the first time and thought, 'I'm not really sure what's going on here,' but regardless, found myself listening to again. And again. And many many more times. I guess Singles accidentally grabbed me - so on the way to their first show of two at the Roundhouse, I was understandably excited.
They was supported by two acts; we arrived for the second, The Vaselines. Not gonna lie, I've had to search the annals of Google to find out exactly who they were again, because it appears I tried to bury that memory. In stark contrast to Future Islands' exciting, upbeat and diverse sound, the support were more boring than hearing about other people's dreams. They barely moved on stage; like strange mannequins, but slightly more dead behind the eyes. I love all live music - well, almost all live music. This horizontal surfer rock did nothing for me at all. I found myself staring at the ceiling just for something to do. The crowd, forced a slightly more enthusiastic cheer for their last song than they did any other.
This forced the headlining band's set to become elevated beyond expectation; everyone was dying for something to remind them that they did indeed still possess the ability to feel emotions.
Taking the stage, Future Islands came on, said thank you about sixteen times, then just got on with it, opening with "Back In The Tall Grass". It took approximately half a second for the crowd to come to life and start singing along and dancing as much as the packed room would allow. I screamed along - 'IT'S THE HEART OF THE SUMMER!' - and felt like it really was. And not just because of the oppressive heat and thick sweat of the crowd. It made me feel like the low buzz we've all been feeling lately that winter might, at long last, be retreating. Sorry, Game of Thrones fans. That wonderful, joyous feeling of long days and warm skin had been thrust upon me, just by listening to some great live music.
The crowd started to thin out a little after the first 3 or 4 songs, when those who couldn't hack the crush bowed out. With a lot more room to dance - and I'd been threatening for AGES to do my impression of Samuel T. Herring's infamous moves - we danced along, we jumped along, and we most certainly sang along. Loudly.
I don't exactly know Future Islands' back catalogue particularly well, aside from a few times where I'd be working away on something and several hours later I'd realise that Spotify has played all four albums. I can't say I knew every song they played, but I can say that I enjoyed all of it. Their older songs slid easily in line with their current releases, whether they had beefed up "Tin Man" just for the show, or whether their style has always been very consistent. They showcased brand new material too, playing three tracks that were very much in-line with Singles. The crowd were excited to hear the new music and there didn't seem to be that feeling of 'oh don't play new stuff we don't know'.
Of course, lead singer Samuel made every inch of the stage count. His signature moves are not just for show; it was like they were a truly involuntary reaction to having a bloody great time on stage. He acted out every song, complete with wild hand gestures and intense facial expressions. Aside from being endlessly entertaining, I felt like we were watching a band that genuinely loved everything they did: the lyrics, the music, the performance. There's nothing worse than watching a gig where the artist doesn't seem to care. We want to KNOW that heart and soul went into producing their music, and Future Islands hit that nail on the head.
So energetic, Samuel's dancing was, that he split his jeans. Incredible scenes. Like a true professional he laughed it off, charming the audience yet again, and shouted, 'JEANS CAN'T HOLD ME BACK!' Christ knows what sort of view the front row might have been getting at that point.
For me, the highlight came with "Seasons (Waiting on You)". This might be unashamedly predictable, but you cannot deny what a tremendous track it is. It was everything I hoped it would be. The whole room singing, Samuel elevating his dancing to the next level; all-round elation. When they left the stage, we all cheered dutifully for their encore. The cheers only got louder with the longer we waited, and I'm pleased to say very few people gave up. Totally worth it. They returned with gusto and Samuel apologised the delay ('real sorry guys, I had to change my pants...') and continued.
We left the gig feeling exhilarated. The entire show was simply captivating, and I got the feeling they were genuinely grateful to be there, and be playing to such an enthusiastic crowd.
If you get the chance to see them, I would definitely recommend it.