Local Natives, New Gods, Texture Like Sun @ The Metro 15.05.13
Both Gorilla Manor (2009) and their latest release, Hummingbird (2013), are albums I have on constant rotation and can reveal a new part or meaning upon each listen. I love that. And live, Local Natives translate their records remarkably. They deliver powerful, unexpected beats, rhythmic and soaring melodies and take you up musical mountains of layered sound to suddenly drop you off into sparse valleys of soft, blending harmony and sincere sentiment.
They did just this at their Metro show last Wednesday night.
When we walked in, Texture Like Sun were finishing their tune ‘Weekend’. They filled and echoed throughout the space gorgeously. After obsessing over this band for many a month, seeing them perform as Local Natives’ first support was a real treat.
Even though some of the building harmonic layers that wash over their stunning EP Texture Like Sun (2012) were absent, what reigned through live was a rawness, allowing us to see the heart of each song. ‘Opportunity’ (while not appearing on the EP) was a shuffling bluesy track featuring an accomplished electric guitar solo, split midi keys with grounding bass and soft organ and strong vocals that swept across a huge range and various timbres.
But it was their last track, ‘Bottle’ which was their stand out. With lyrical depth and rough vocals, out rang the powerful line “I didn’t need you”. Texture Like Sun are a treasure that are sure to continue to shine bright.
The main support for the night was New Gods. Having only heard one of their tracks, and with just a little knowledge of their line up (part Eagle and The Worm, part Ground Components, part Little Red), I was quite impressed by their set. Combining great 90’s rock with a more chilled, indie vibe, they had an awesome energy and catchy tunes. And they had a sax. And later a sleigh bell. What wasn’t to like?
With four of the five singing, New Gods layered their songs with harmonies. The lead vocals reverbed with personality and rhythm was tight, especially for ‘Razorblades’ and ‘On Your Side’, both memorable tracks. They finished with an all embodied rock out, making a fun and lively ending, yet hurling the guitar to the stage floor seemed a just a little too much…
While the headliners set the stage, we managed to manoeuvre through the crowded venue and planted ourselves steadily above the many heads for a grand view. After the lights dimmed, the L.A. band walked on to David Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’. Not sure if this was intentional, but it was a cool move, nonetheless.
As the keys sustained those synthy chords and the drum kicked in while a recognisable broken chord rang from the electric guitar, we all melted into their opening song. Captivating us with high and powerful vocals, ‘You & I’ was a fantastic beginning. Also the first track of Hummingbird (2013), the song had brilliant life.
Leading straight into ‘Breakers’ Local Natives were full of dynamic energy, immediately confirming they still possessed that amazing live zing they had at their 2011 Laneway show. And on this night, it was even stronger. Their trademark ‘woah’s’, an instrumental layer in their own right, soared and then suddenly the song broke away and revealed the stripped back verse.
Building up again I could feel the bass drum as if it was against my chest. What struck me as most impressive throughout their show was how tight and tuned the whole kit was, giving punchy rhythms and secure beats.
Next, Local Natives delighted us with a track from their first release. With the descending syncopated guitar riff, ‘Wide Eyes’ reminded us of their clever and rhythmic hooks which warm so well to soaring vocals that layer around them. And the newer ‘Black Balloons’ had just the same. Lyrics “hold me down, and bring me back up again…” bellowed with strength.
Their Talking Heads cover of ‘Warning Sign’ was definitely one of their most energetic. Yelling playfully but still strong, the group vocals were brilliant. With a sensitive set order the next tracks ‘Ceilings’ and ‘Mt. Washington’ brought the mood down, only to be slowly hoisted up once more with ‘Heavy Feet’. “Well you said I wrote it down, it won’t say, it won’t speak the same…” rang and filled out with just the right amount of harmony.
With the band regularly changing instruments and parts throughout their set, the flow of their show was commendably unaffected. Rather, it was inspiring to see their talents spread so far, all the while appearing beautifully humble and polite on stage before us.
One of my new favourites, ‘Colombia’, soared with gorgeous melisma vocal lines interspersed with rests that felt like breaths in the tale “you gave, and gave…” and the heartfelt question “am I giving enough?” had a beautiful urgency. Revisiting Gorilla Manor (2009) again, ‘World News’ gave us all smiles as the band played joyous rhythmic licks and got the crowd “ohh”-ing along with them.
‘Airplanes’ was also a crowd pleaser and its lyrics hit me a little harder in a live setting “I don’t know you as well as my father new you…I want you back, back…” ‘Wooly Mammoth’ had pounding chords, giving us the strong beat while the drums became a feature of their own. A great Local Native technique. And ‘Who Knows Who Cares’ gave us even more harmony, taking us through a further than expected range.
To finish was ‘Sun Hands’. Complete with dimmed lighting on the break down the stage suddenly illuminated brightly as the group vocals pelted in, and again when that awesome guitar line leads in to take us to a high finish. They can ‘wall-of-sound’ so darn well.
Returning to a blissful crowd with and encore of ‘Shape Shifter’, by the end it was clearly unanimous: Local Natives had given us one hell of a thrilling, energetic and all around radiant show.
Check out photos of the gig by AuroRamanPhotography here.