Future Islands with Jenny Besetzt at Massey Hall

Photos by Neil Van

Toronto is an amazing city. Its crowds however, are notoriously tentative. Massey Hall is an amazing venue. The comfortable seating and tiered views however, are awfully enabling for Toronto’s already tentative crowds. Future Islands are an amazing band.

No qualifier required.

It took to the end of the first song for the crowd to surge to their feet. No stuffiness or recalcitrance, just pure unabated enthusiasm. From the floor to the balconies rose a sea of people overwhelmed by Future Islands’ raw passion and blistering performance. Why? Because they encourage no less than awe.

This may all sound sycophantic, but if you’d seen lead singer Samuel Herring lunging across the stage it would make perfect sense. As in the band’s now iconic Letterman performance, their energetic live presence was phenomenal. Herring covered the entirety of the stage, whether through Hotline Bling style contortions, the Cossack Dance or sliding across the floor like he was diving for home base. His interpretive movements were backed by the strength of his impressive vocals. His unique voice oscillated between expansive notes and animalistic growls, receding to an almost whisper during quieter tracks. The rest of the band was more reserved, but crafted a full encompassing synthpop sound.

For the audience, seeing Herring’s unhinged performance seemed to unlock something within them. People were dancing, flailing limbs wildly. They were singing along, cheering and clapping. Frankly, with the crowd on their feet for the entirety of the performance, every song garnered a standing ovation. It was unbelievable, people still hollering and cheering well after the track had ended. The band’s most famed song, “Seasons (Waiting on You)” had the crowd clapping for several minutes.

Massey Hall, as always, justified why it’s considered one of Toronto’s most atmospheric venues. The warm acoustics were backed by gorgeous lighting effects. There were bouncing coloured balls of light and Moonlight style soft blues, pinks and purples. At times lights rained down like confetti or blanketed the stage in warm orange blossoms. Herring thanked the audience and acknowledged the venue, saying they’d performed in Toronto many times, but always with the goal of making it to Massey Hall. There was no question in the crowd’s mind. Future Islands had made it.

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