Future Islands Enchant Palace Theatre


A magical night of musical curiosity awaited St. Paul’s eager crawl Saturday night as they lined up to see Future Islands. The Maryland-based synth pop powerhouses Future Islands rolled through with their signature bombastic live show, and it certainly did not disappoint. Their stop on the current People Who Aren’t There Anymore tour saw them swing through the majestic Palace Theater, and what a perfect venue it was for their theatrical indulgence.

Opening support came from Ed Schrader’s Musical Beat, a two-piece out of Baltimore that walk the line between art-pop and abrasive punk, a duality that they employ to destructive affect. Frontperson Ed Schrader alternates demonically between spoken drawl and rapidly barked staccato yell, and the pace at which Devlin Rice tears into his bass guitar shifts just as frantically. It’s an oscillation that seems entirely earnest – hearing Shrader say on stage that the crowd should “make art, even if it’s weird – because at least it’s you”, only for them to immediately break into a wide eyed scream over sharp cracks of the drum and a melodic, mesmerizing backing track, you’re really only left to believe that they are entirely sincere in that rhetoric, and that sincerity makes itself manifest as they tear apart the stage, seeming significantly larger than their minimalist ensemble would lead you to believe.

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A short break later, the crew of Future Islands took to the stage silhouetted by a blaring orange light as they exited through keyboardist Gerrit Welmers’ one story arched stage. Their assembly around Samuel T. Herring’s massive space central space in which to fling himself – which proved a delightful portent – was a preamble to the chaos. Herring’s intro to the crowd – an acknowledgment of the city, their past with it, and a short into to lead single ‘King of Sweden’ – a gentle juxtaposition towards Future Islands’ enormous presentation. 

This playground of dynamics is something that has always been present in the band’s music, and the translation of that contrast into a live sound is their finest quality. One gets the sense that Herring may be a force of one when listening to ‘King of Sweden’ or ‘Ran’, but one cannot possibly estimate anywhere within reality just how much space he occupies. Physical space, sure – but his charisma transcends simple occupation of the corporeal into an overwhelming presence, consuming every attention span in venue and becoming entirely his. All the croons are delivered with the full force of his body as he careens across the stage, the chorus of the aforementioned ‘..Sweden’ washing over the crowd as he fully spins himself around with a punch, only to quickly alternate back into a delicate, whispered lilt, then a sharp turn into his classic live growls, and you can see the sweat pour off his brow because he is unable to give anything less than every single ounce of himself in a performance. 

What really makes it click is how effortless it all seems. Throughout the evening, this fourpiece dances this dance of clashing sugar-sweet and dissonant angst, and it all comes across as perfectly sensible, something so obvious that you’re shocked you hadn’t thought of it first. It’s completely, uncompromisingly heartfelt, the wall between artist and audience torn down and laid bare, leaving any who attend with a powerful experience and a desire to experience it all over again.