As fans of this blog will know, I am a big, big fan of Los Angeles five-piece Local Natives. So when I discovered that the band was playing a scant five minute walk from my house, I was elated. The band’s début album, Gorilla Manor, was a superb record and I now had the chance to go and see the creators of one of my current favourite records: a lovely realisation I’m sure you’ll agree.
Of course, seeing a band you really like is always a two-sided coin; whilst on the one hand you’re extremely excited, there’s always a niggling thought in your mind, wondering if your appreciation of said band will wane if they’re rubbish live. Fortunately, within about fifteen seconds of Local Natives’ set, any such concerns were utterly destroyed as the group powered into a thumping rendition of single ‘Camera Talk’ and instantly showed an enthusiasm, stage presence and commitment which translated into a fantastic show.
The show itself was essentially a runthrough of the album, with almost every song played as the band showed their credentials. The Brudenell Social Club, for those unfamiliar with it, is a pretty small venue with a capacity probably struggling to exceed 300, but it suited the powerful sound that Local Natives created down to the ground. During excellent renditions of ‘Wide Eyes’ and ‘Ariplanes’, you could actually feel the place shaking with both a brilliant crowd’s enjoyment and the group’s relentless tunes vibrating into the very foundations of the venue.
As expected, Local Natives did not look, nor indeed act, like most band’s you’ll see. Their music is like a combination of Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire (an assessment which some bastard has put on Wikipedia, thus making me look like a prize plagiariser), and in terms of live performance they are very similar to the latter; bursting with energy. Each of the three main vocalists – Ryan Hahn, Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer – rotated between guitar, synths, vocals and extra drums to create an exceptionally well-rounded sound which hit you with the force of a band twice the size. All three singers were as close to pitch-perfect as you’ll hear in a live setting, and the complex harmonies which are the album’s hallmark soared through every number, with admirable precision and few bum notes. Of course, they weren’t all completely perfect all the time, but only Van Morrison would ever claim to be, so it’s not a major concern.
However, all this extra energy and exuberance did not serve to hinder the musical quality, instead enhance it. Some groups have a tendency to get so ‘into’ the live show that they forget what the songs actually sound like, messing their way through tracks people like and generally fucking about too much to make their music come across coherently (Red Hot Chili Peppers, I’m looking at you). Local Natives played as if for their lives last week, thrilling the crowd with every song and finding that difficult line between a presenceless album recreation and an overly ostentatious live show and treading it with skill and deftness. The personal highlight for me was certainly the final song, the band blasting out the triumphant ‘Sun Hands’ with more energy and power than a hundred lesser bands could manage, all the while maintaining their musical integrity.
I think it’s safe to say that when the band return to Leeds in the summer, they’ll play a venue with a far higher capacity than 300.