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Live Review: Future Islands @ The Anthem — 6/23/24

Although Future Islands may live in separate towns now — Sam Herring lives in New Orleans, Will Cashion (bass) in Los Angeles, while Gerrit Welmers (keyboards) and Mike Lowry (drums) reside in Baltimore — Baltimore is home for this band, as Sam recently reminded an enthusiastic crowd at The Anthem. As someone who lives in Charm City, I’ve had the great fortune to see Future Islands several times over the years — from a warehouse, a church, and small clubs to now headlining the 6,000-capacity Anthem.

And for some bands, that transition can change the dynamic, but not for Future Islands.

Newly released via 4AD, People Who Aren’t There Anymore, the band’s seventh studio album, is an emotional road trip. Even the steady thrumming of the bass/synth/drums combo makes the listener feel like they are driving ahead in the middle of the night — the only illumination coming from their own headlights. A lot of frontman Sam Herring’s growl from previous records has given way to a more introspective croon. But that weathered delivery is there as resonant as ever. When he sings, “Where you end / That’s where I began / And all it took / One walk with you / And I knew That I belong to you” from “Deep In The Night” or listening to “Say Goodbye” you can tell that this is one of the most personal Future Islands records of the band’s 15-year career.

Watch the official music video for “Deep in the Night” by Future Islands on YouTube:

But for a band whose live show is a big part of their appeal, how would these new songs translate to the stage? Pretty well, as it turned out at The Anthem on June 23!

Starting off the evening was Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, the Baltimore duo of Ed Schrader (vocals / drums) and Devlin Rice (bass). Normally opening acts playing a huge stage is tough, but with just two individuals alone in front of thousands had to be daunting. These two, though, played like there was nothing else in the world — making for a fun and exciting opening for what was to follow.

Although this show was “seated” with lines of comfortable chairs around the club, as soon as the band took to the stage no one was sitting. As the band entered the stage through an archway built into one of the pillared stage risers, silhouetted by smoke filled white light, fans packed the front of the venue. In fact, it seemed like Sam was willing the crowd closer to the stage as he reached out to fans in the front rows.

As the band started with the first two songs from the new album, “King of Sweden” and “The Tower,” it became clear there was no softening of Future Islands’ live show. One thing that complemented not only the band’s sound but the way Herring moved across the stage was the elegant new stage set-up. Keyboardist Gerrit was perched highest on the main square pillar, while Will manned the bass on a smaller pillar adjacent to the first. And drummer Michael Lowry was on a third riser with each placement part of the overall stage design.

Sam is a physical performer, both in terms of the theatrical way he emotes and the way he makes the physical stage like an instrument. Thinking back, I remember that one time during a particularly packed and sweaty Ottobar show, Sam even accidentally headbutted me and then held my head to his for a moment as a “Hey, sorry about that, man”. And while that couldn’t possibly happen in a place as massive as The Anthem, that same feeling of being part of the performance was definitely there.

Although most of the songs in the set understandably focused on the new album, there were some older gems like brilliant show ender “Little Dreamer” from their debut — and a special duet between Sam Herring and Ed Schrader on The Far Field‘s “Shadows.” There was even “Before The Bridge” from their third album, On The Water — a song, Herring told the crowd, was written about their time growing up in North Carolina.

Watch the official music video for “Before the Bridge” by Future Islands on YouTube:

Watching the band from the back of the room, something rare happened. I was just as caught up in the music and the performance of Future Islands as if I was with the fans crowding the front of the stage. Watching Herring move back and forth from one side of the stage to the next (seemingly, at times, with one stride) was electric. The force coming from the stage was palpable. I kept thinking to myself, “How could a person have that much energy?”

The best bands tend to shine no matter what stage they play, and Future Islands certainly shine bright.

Future Islands continue rolling through the USA on tour this summer, and it’s an entertaining show not to miss.

The setlist included:

King of Sweden
The Tower
A Dream of You and Me
Plastic Beach
Light House
Before the Bridge
Give Me the Ghost Back
Corner of My Eye
City’s Face
Shadows (With Ed Schrader)
The Sickness
The Thief
For Sure
Say Goodbye
Seasons (Waiting on You)
Long Flight
Tin Man

Inch of Dust
Vireo’s Eye
Little Dreamer

Here are more photos of Future Island performing at The Anthem on Sunday, June 23, 2024. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.

And here are photos of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat opening the evening at The Anthem on June 23, 2024.