Future Islands is weird, wonderful at Beauty Bar

Future Islands frontman Sam Herring sings like no one told him not to.
Photo: Adam Shane
Max Plenke

Four stars

Future Islands Beauty Bar, April 16.

I’ve now watched that Future Islands video five times. The one from The Late Show with David Letterman, the one everyone has seen. Over and over I watched that singer, Sam Herring, the one who looks like young Morrissey, like clean-shaven Russell Crowe, dance like a man who’s never had stiff legs. The dance loved by Letterman. The one that makes people like you and me know who Future Islands is, and makes you want to see why it’s a live show worth more than three minutes and 46 seconds of your day.

At their first-ever performance in Las Vegas, the night I’m here, I’m impressed but skeptical. By song two Herring’s already doing The Dance, a low-down, two-step prowl where his limbs bob independently, his arms and legs tied to invisible strings, his head bobbing so low it might be beneath his knees. The music itself, dancey, docile, dated, a Molly Ringwald makeout scene soundtrack, isn’t my color. And then there’s The Voice, which shouldn’t work, really. It’s too unusual, too extreme to be serious, at once soft and cooing, syllables away from deep and, no sh*t, metal-band guttural, it doesn’t seem like he’s singing with the same band.

Then “Seasons,” proper noun The Song, plays. It’s perfect, identical to that Letterman slot, and it’s probably sounded just like this all tour, muppet growls and all. It’s here, in my sixth time seeing “Seasons” performed, that I learned the secret of Future Islands: Sam Herring sings like no one told him not to. And thank God for that.

  • The Las Vegas debut of the Ohio-bred indie band was filled with dynamic arrangements, entertaining anecdotes—and, surprisingly, lots of attendees.

  • At this point, the only constant from album to album is the band’s dedication to ambition.

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