Concert Reviews

Future Islands' Sam Herring Is the New Freddie Mercury

The way Sam Herring moves on stage can be frightening: One moment he's slashing at the air with a balled-up fist, the next he's pounding that fist into his chest with brute force. He crawls across the stage on his knees, sweating and wailing in frustration, but will look up and into your eyes momentarily, and suddenly, he becomes a person you want to know. Last night's Future Islands show at the Gothic Theatre may have been the band's best-ever performance in Colorado to date, led by Herring's ability to express the most real and raw emotions one human can pass along to a room full of hundreds of strangers.

See also: Our Review of Future Islands' 2008 Show at Rhinoceropolis

Herring's signature dance moves were all there: From his get-low twist to the erratic jumps he made from one side of the stage to the other, everything was punctuated by the singer's sensual hip wiggles and thrusts. The consensual sexiness of his overall demeanor was balanced out by the televangelist-preacher vibe Herring also gave off, his arms moving wildly in front of a tight, buttoned-to-the collar long-sleeved shirt, fists raised in the air and releasing to form prayer hands.

The set was heavy on newer material from this year's Singles, which delighted the crowd. "Seasons (Waiting on You"), "Spirit," "Light House," "Fall From Grace" and "A Song for Our Grandfathers" we among the hits, with Future Islands blasting through them in a performance that was just short of an hour long. Herring was definitely on particular fire last night, but bassist William Cashion was his stoic and necessary counterpart; his bass lines boomed through the Gothic's system with precision and force. The pairing of Cashion's steady funkiness with Herring's soulful croon has remained constant over Future Islands' last decade together.

Herring also has an uncanny ability to channel Yma Sumac's vocal range, barreling through verses that can begin with a high squeal and finish with a terrifying growl. Combined with his sweat-filled gentle giant stage dancing, Herring operated like a man possessed: One minute he was screaming at the ceiling, the next he was cowering on the floor, holding hands with audience members.

There were songs peppered throughout the set made for longtime fans too -- the B-side "The Fountain" and "Tin Man" from 2010's In Evening Air were present and the crowd stayed focused on Herring as he orchestrated touring drummer Michael Lowry's cymbal crashes with his pastor-like movements. The singer took a moment to recognize those older fans too, mentioning Future Islands' first show in Denver at Rhinoceropolis in 2008. The band has come a long way in those years, but nothing has changed about its energy; whether Herring is performing on the floor of a warehouse, screaming sweetly into the eyes of a fan or raising the rafters with grand gestures to hundreds of heads looking on at the Gothic, the band is still the same. Once the band finished, a break before the encore passed just long enough for Herring to change out of his completely sweat-soaked shirt and into a fresh one. The band banged out four more tracks, closing down the night with an old favorite, "Little Dreamer." Unquestionably one of the best concerts of the year, Future Islands sold-out performance will go down as a "you had to be there" moment for a group that is only going to get more fucking huge as the world continues to fall in love with Sam Herring. Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies

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