On the day that they release new album ‘As Long As You Are’, Future Islands have a point to prove, to themselves if nobody else. The new album, a restorative gut-punch of existential bangers, follows 2017’s ‘The Far Field’, a record the band have since called “condescending” for their self-described lack of honesty in making it. Throughout this gorgeously shot livestreamed gig from their home state of Maryland, though, Samuel T. Herring and co. prove one thing – they really, really mean it.
“We’re so happy to be here with you tonight,” Herring tells the camera after an opening of cinematic new song ‘Hit The Coast’. “This is strange… but I know that you’re out there with us. I hope you’re with friends or with family – and if you’re alone, know that you’re not alone. We’re gonna get through this together.” Not every band leader could spill between-song chat out into the ether at an event such as this without it seeming trite or awkward, but from the off Herring forges a tangible community for an hour of your Friday night, and all through a laptop screen.
The era of ‘The Far Field’ was one of intrigue for legions of new Future Islands fans, pulled in by the band’s notorious viral performance of ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ on The Late Show Letterman in 2014. While the breakout performance was never a joke to the band – or to Herring, who was thumping his chest like a gorilla at basement shows in Baltimore years before he hit network TV – it feels as though pressure defined their last era, and it’s a pressure that is forcibly lifted off their backs tonight.
Their set, a mix of old and new, is defined by this newfound freedom, alongside the honesty and connection the band built their name on. Sharing his support for the Black Lives Matter movement before the propulsive ‘Born In A War’ and taking time for some (literal) self-reflection during the elegiac ‘Moonlight’, reaching out to his own hand in the mirrored floor of the circular stage, Herring is a total livewire tonight. Knowing this will be the band’s only live show of 2020, he packs a year’s worth of blood, guts and pure passion into it.
He punches the air with vicious enthusiasm during the chorus of thunderous recent single ‘For Sure’, his energy bursting right through the airwaves and onto your sofa; livestreamed gigs in the age of coronavirus could easily be detached and sterile affairs, but not when you have Samuel T. Herring at the wheel.
Then comes ‘Seasons…’, the track that started all of this. “People change / But you know some people never do,” Herring sings, pointing a very deliberate finger at his own chest when singing the second half of the line. Future Islands are far from the viral flash-in-the-pan people pinned them as six years ago, and this is a statement of intent – Herring has always been a step ahead, and tonight he continues the charge.
Future Islands played:
‘Hit The Coast’
‘Beauty Of The Road’
‘A Dream Of You And Me’
‘Born In A War’
‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’
‘In The Fall’