Future Islands – Vicar Street, 2nd & 3rd November

And they make you want to rave, and to both remember, and forget. Essentially they remind you how great it is to be alive.‘ – Siobhán Kane on Future Islands’ two Vicar Street gigs These two Future Islands shows, their biggest to date, came at the tail end of their European tour, not that it showed. You could have lit fireworks on the crackle of the atmosphere alone. Each night had its own feeling and tone, like the band were accounting for each and every person in the room. And there were many of us to account for. Frontman Samuel T. Herring ran through all of the Dublin venues they had played in previously – a charming reminder that their ferocious beauty had once been confined to Upstairs in Whelans.

But a sense of confinement never truly enters this band’s thinking; they have always been explosive, with the more reserved temperaments of bassist William Cashion and keyboardist Gerrit Welmers acting as brilliant foils to the primal, instinctive Herring, who thrashes and gurns and sweats and coaxes, almost like a musical Hamlet, meditating on Yorick’s skull – if Hamlet was lost in a faint memory one moment, then a hip-swivel the next.

Some of this audience have come on the strength of seeing a performance of Seasons (Waiting on You) on a late night talk show (a man behind me muttered “here we go” when the first chords of that struck up), and while some people “want it all, the dancing bear, the bouncing ball” (from Grease) they were given so much more.

Future Islands are grafters.They have been together for well over a decade, and in that time have released four great records, several EP’s and an earlier incarnation – the mischievous Art Lord & the Self Portraits. They have toured with kindred souls, like Dan Deacon (always a benevolent presence) and have made Baltimore their home, community, and muse, benefitting from its thriving, supportive music landscape, it’s really where their incendiary live performances were evolved.

And Herring is a huge part of that incendiary draw, but he is anchored by the brilliant musicianship of Cashion, Welmers, and touring drummer Mike Lowry – whose contribution has brought another rich layer to their already wealthy compositions. Their own creative desire is never sated, and it is their striving to be better, greater, and more connected, that makes them so compelling. Over the two nights, they brilliantly weave work from their new record Singles into a more generous narrative that folds in their past records Wave Like Home (2008), In Evening Air (2010), and On the Water (2011); the stomping Walking Through That Door sits well alongside the swaying A Song for our Grandfathers, The Great Fire, originally recorded with Jenn Wasner of fellow Baltimore residents – Wye Oak, tenderly rests in the crook of the arm of the sensual, RnB-influenced Doves, which causes Herring to bring out his “sexy dance” and causes near-collective hysteria. Like a modern day Elvis, mixed with a little Prince, Bob Mortimer, Henry Rollins, and an extra from On the Waterfront, Herring gives everything of himself, wringing out the acute melancholy of Inch of Dust, or the sense of kindness (as well as great bass) that permeates Balance, which is about “just trying to help a friend get through something”.

There was something different for each night’s audience; Sunday was rounded off with their perfect lullaby, Little Dreamer, from 2008’s Wave Like Home. It was a lovely surprise, as was the inclusion of Beach Foam from the same record on Monday evening, with Herring ruefully prefacing, “we don’t really do this one, as it destroys my voice”, as his baying, straining vocal soared against a bouncy synth. Katrina Ford, of support act Celebration, came on stage the second evening to accompany Herring on a couple of songs, and added to the spirit of jovial collaboration. The uplifting Sun in the Morning sounded glorious on both nights, all we were missing was a brass section, but it fed us the “daily soul” Herring sings of, and that is part of Future Islands’ power – their ability to nourish.

The highlights were innumerable; Cashion losing a string and having to change guitar, just as Herring was about to tear into Long Flight, perched precariously on a monitor, “I don’t think I can gargoyle again”, he quips, while preparing to do exactly that, or later channelling Serge Gainsbourg on Light House, that old, faded pop song, or whipping the Monday night crowd into a frenzy with Vireo’s Eye where everything dissembled into a bit of a rave. And they make you want to rave, and to both remember, and forget. Essentially they remind you how great it is to be alive.

And they are all about community, and were quick to thank all who helped to get them to these two sold-out shows, and who have been with them from the beginning. There was more continuity in terms of brilliant support artist Patrick Kelleher, as he has supported them almost every time they have played here, and the whole thing really seemed like a sort of homecoming – Dublin as Baltimore. On Back in the Tall Grass, Herring sings, “we’re a long way from home, how did we get here?”, and from where they are standing, it must seem quite surreal, but to anyone who has seen them put the work in, it seems so deserving.

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