Last night, Baltimore’s Future Islands played The Late Show with David Letterman. The dramatic synth-pop trio is still claimed for the Triangle by many local musicians and fans, largely due to their origins in nearby Greenville, but also because of their continued personal and professional connections to North Carolina. While they have not called the state home in years, they remain a North Carolina success story and a staple in the local music press. And Wednesday, right on the heels of their network TV debut, they’ll play a sold-out Haw River Ballroom date.
Last night was surely exciting for the band, and also for plenty of locals who’ve seen them play smaller venues or even shared a bill with them. Future Islands’ performance of “Seasons (Waiting on You),” from forthcoming LP Singles, possessed the same raw, pulsing energy that defines their live shows. Vocalist Sam Herring maximized the three-odd minutes of their performance (Future Islands cut the song’s outro, likely due to time constraints) by growling several lines of the second verse, which are crooned on the album version, in his dense, low roar. He ducked and weaved and danced like a prizefighter, as local videographer and INDY blogger Dan Schram noted on Twitter. In what little time they had, Future Islands revealed a raw, slightly dangerous edge, a smart move as performers.
If you watch to the end of the video, you’ll notice that Letterman’s reaction seems genuinely impressed, even shocked. “How about that?” he exclaims, beaming. “I’ll take all of that you got!” Network TV has a hell of a broad audience, and Future Islands’ performance may be a first step onto a new level rather than a crowning achievement. That lofty plateau is not a bad place to be for a band that’s never been afraid of heights.