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After Baltimore’s Future Islands blew up the internet last month with their Late Show with David Letterman performance, I knew that their stop at the 9:30 Club last night, the last date on their U.S. tour, would be a hot ticket. All three bands in the line-up (Oh Hang and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat opened) were from Charm City, and Future Islands lead singer Samuel T. Herring was happy about it. “This is the third night of the Baltimore takeover,” he said, a nod to Baltimorean Chiffon, which had taken the opening slot on the two previous nights. The sold-out audience didn’t need any convincing; it was already captivated from the moment the band hit the stage, screaming and cheering at Herring’s every saucy dance move and chest thump.
But, as a fairly new Future Islands listener, I can’t say I was won over by the live show. Much like Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn, Herring is a dynamic force onstage. And the man can sing. But if you have a voice like his, one with incredible Tom Jones delivery, why punctuate it with the kind of guttural growls you hear more often in Swedish death metal? The band played well, but remained statue-still for the entire show, with nary a look of enthusiasm in sight, which put all of the focus on Herring. And after a while, I felt like I was hearing the same song again and again, with the same New Order-like bass lines (even if the bassist William Cashion is really good at ’em). I’ll definitely play Future Islands’ new release, Singles, and maybe check out their back catalog, I don’t think I’ll ever see them live again. Once was quite enough.
See photos from the show in the gallery.