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Future Islands, The Refectory, Leeds University

  • Written by  Richard Inman

Less than a week after a huge Coachella show, playing the second UK date in a seemingly endless world tour, Future Islands are on good form, beaming as they step on stage. Enjoying the hard-earned and richly deserved success of a band who don’t seem to have stopped in over a decade and are coming good after an infamous Letterman performance in 2014.

Future Islands are currently touring The Far Field, their fifth album, released at the start of April. The Far Field builds on the success of its predecessor, Singles, their breakthrough album and doesn’t stray too far from the band’s now signature Synthpop-Disco-Punk sound.  

Opener ‘Back In The Tall Grass’ eases the Bank Holiday crowd into the show with its simple groove of drum and bass with dainty synths which drive Future Island’s sound, affording singer Samuel Herring the freedom to act every word. It’s a narrow venue, famed for The Who’s Live At Leeds show and live record of the same name from 1970, which plays into Herring’s hands. Everyone is close enough to see the whites of his eyes and feel his enthusiasm.

This is the third time I’ve seen Future Islands, but the first time at their own show, not at a festival. Here they create an atmosphere and intimacy, which you’d always expect in a smaller show, but they are particularly intense. This is in no small part down to Herring’s enigmatic and endearing performance.

He's now infamous for his exuberant dancing, punk-style chest beating (his chest must be purple by the end of the tour) and metal grunts. His theatricality and emotion while performing is very refreshing and has clearly struck a chord with fans leading to their growing popularity as the sold out tour indicates. He dances like no one is watching and it’s wonderful to see in such cynical times. The crowd erupts when they go into ‘A Dream Of You And Me’, a song that highlights the poetic lyricism of the band and Herring’s delivery is akin to a soliloquy.

However, it would be a disservice to Future Islands to merely wax lyrical about Herring. The Talking Clock could set its watch by drummer Michael Lowry and bassist William Cashion’s playing. They have the sonic rapport necessary for the rhythm section of any great band. Keyboardist Gerrit Welmers further adds waves of depth and atmosphere with his understated playing.

It’s one of those shows where you realise you’d forgotten how many great songs the band have. They play a Singles and The Far Field-heavy set list with a handful of older tracks that show the band's development. All The Far Fields material is well received, with new singles ‘Ran’ and ‘Cave’ as highlights. Herring’s gyrating to ‘Cave’ whips the crowd up and the soaring, ethereal synth and vocals on ‘North Star‘ are spine tingling.

’Seasons (Waiting On You)’, after its performance on The Late Show with David Letterman and subsequently going viral, arguably launched them to mainstream popularity and is always a fan favourite that prompts the Herring dancing mimicry reaching fever pitch with the eclectic holiday crowd.

With a 20 plus song set list, a lack of variety in style is noticeable, however the passion and enthusiasm of delivery is unsurpassed and very entertaining. As Herring croons in closer, ‘Little Dreamer’, “And as we say goodnight, I hold you close and tight” you can’t help but feel touched and impressed by Future Islands’ energy and sincerity. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Set list

Back in the Tall Grass

Time on Her Side

Sun in the Morning

A Dream of You and Me

North Star


Walking Through That Door



Before the Bridge


A Song for Our Grandfathers


Through the Roses

Light House

Seasons (Waiting on You)

Long Flight

Tin Man



Black Rose

Vireo's Eye

Little Dreamer 

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