Future Islands w/ Milo @ The Pabst Theater
June 7, 2017
One of the most commercially successful acts to spring from Baltimore’s
bustling, ever-eclectic music scene, Future Islands have experienced something
of a meteoric rise over the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. The
band’s brand of anthemic, cinematic synth-pop, a kind of spiritual successor to
the likes of New Order and Kate Bush, is immediately accessible in a way which,
if put in front of a large enough audience, was bound to catch on. And that’s
exactly what happened following a career-making 2014 appearance on “Late Night
with David Letterman,” but more
impressive is that they’ve been able to turn what started as a viral sensation
into a lasting, loyal following (something that’s easier said than done) and
that’s partly thanks to their passionate live performances and unique stage
Speaking of stage presence, local opener Milo also had plenty, albeit in a different way. Surrounded by musicians covering every inch of available real estate, Milo deftly led his sizable ensemble through a loosely structured set of inspired acid-rap. With the house all but packed for the buzzed-about main act, Milo and company definitely gained more than a few new fans with their jazzy, genre-bending explorations, which put a strong lyrical emphasis on social justice issues, particularly police brutality. The politics, however, never felt heavy handed, aligning nicely with the positivity-laced, consciousness-expanding spirit of the music, one in the grand Afro-cosmic tradition of Sun Ra and Parliament-Funkadelic. While more than entertaining throughout, they put an exclamation point at the end of their performance with an unexpected appearance from likeminded local MC Lorde Fredd33.
When the lights dimmed for Future Islands, frontman Samuel T. Herring offered up some sincerely effusive praise for their warm-up act before launching into a long set that delivered three-and-a-half-minute doses of dreamily danceable art-pop with the steady precision of a morphine drip. The discography-spanning setlist, predictably showcasing their brand-new The Far Field, had plenty of highlights, but after well over an hour and a half, the similarities between the songs started to stand out more than the differences. Yet, if their overall enjoyable style began to get a little repetitive by the time they reached the end of a four-song encore, what didn’t was Herring’s evocative voice and especially his strange dance moves—a theatrical mixture of Michael Jackson, Brazilian capoeira and Ian Curtis’ epileptic twitchiness which often stole the show.