Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Concert review: Local Natives’ mystique captivates Dallas audience for a second time
The band made another pit stop in Dallas, this time between Austin City Limits gigs.
Credit Austin City Limits for Local Natives’ second appearance in North Texas this year. In March, the Los Angeles-based indie rockers sold out the venue now known as South Side Ballroom in a performance that Pegasus News reporter Brenna Rushing said gave listeners deeper insight into its latest release, Hummingbird. This time around, the group showcased its harmonic mastery at House of Blues alongside ACL peer Wild Nothing.
Wild Nothing immediately induced the crowd into a dream-like state with the first chords of “Nocturne,” the title track off the band’s 2012 release. Whimsical sounds conceived by Jack Tatum, the band’s mastermind and sole recording artist, filled the venue perpetuated by a three-piece band. The four scrawny white boys seemed to be ushering in the first autumn breeze with their 30 minutes of echoing guitar lines and blissfully chill beats.
Despite inherent differences between Hummingbird and Local Natives’ debut album Gorilla Manor (2009), the concert Tuesday followed a consistent pulse. Old favorites like “Wide Eyes,” “Airplanes” and Talking Heads’ cover “Warning Sign” intertwined seamlessly with new singles like “Mt. Washington” and “Breakers.”
Local Natives kept an upbeat tempo bumping the whole set, adding a danceable flavor to Hummingbird’s more contained songs such as “You & I.” The group’s five members, Taylor Rice (vocals/guitar), Kelcey Ayers (keyboards/ percussion /guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Matt Frazier (drums) and Nik Ewing (touring bassist), lead the audience in an acoustic version of “Who Knows Who Cares,” allowing Dallas fans to add a unique vocal layer all their own.
Percussionist Ayers, who simultaneously played and looped his recordings, guided the flow of Local Natives’ performance. Ayers’ beats were so manic and his voice so powerful, I often thought he was going to burst the top button on his vintage collared shirt.
The defining factor, and surely the most alluring, about Local Natives is its graceful three- and four-part harmonies omnipresent throughout its discography. Recorded, the vocal congruency is easily overlooked considering the studio capabilities of the 21st century. But live, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
Local Natives closed out with a three-song encore, building steam through “Colombia” and “Heavy Feet” before explosively, if somewhat predictably, culminating with 2009's hit single “Sun Hands.” Strings of flickering light bulbs swayed from the rafters as the house lights swirled uncontrollably like a hurricane just hit the venue. The crowd shouted along the lyrics as if competing with rain on a tin roof.
In some respect, Local Natives’ formula is repetitive — start with a strong percussion-based foundation, add some lingering lyrics and then dredge it in some pop sweetness. But the band’s talent is unquestionable. Throughout the show, the familiar sounds of Gorilla Manor were given a new life while Hummingbird’s softer sounds were energetic yet still captivating.
Whatever the group’s indie rock template, it's working. Some in the crowd attended despite having seen Local Natives earlier this year. And if given a third chance, there’s no doubt they’d take it again: The music is just that good.