Live review: Local Natives

O2 Academy, Newcastle Saturday, March 6

Tom Martin
Pic: Tom Martin
We’d have forgiven tautologically named young pups Local Natives for being exhausted, irritable and half-hearted, tonight being the last show of their European tour’n’all. No fear: amid the sticky Academy floors, glazed with a sickly sheen of beer and alcopops, the LA band wield their charms with first-night energy. ‘World News’, the opener of the evening, is a thundering bulletin with an irrepressible chorus of “Oh, oh, oh!” that’s soon picked up and run with by everyone present. Here, they display the tendencies towards Fleet Foxes-ish folkiness that made their debut album ‘Gorilla Manor’ such a joy. It’s bolstered by barbershop vocals that take every breath away from the crowd – and we’ve only been here four-and-a-half-minutes.

Zesty string-tinged track ‘Camera Talk’ conjures wholesome thoughts of summery frolics, while ‘Sun Hands’ displays the band’s penchant for Vampire Weekend-esque clean-cut freshman-frenzy. ‘Airplanes’, meanwhile, is startlingly beautiful from the instant the drumbeats thud into action.

A tribute to singer Kelcey Ayer’s grandfather, who died before the two could meet, the track is full of rustic sentiment. Ayer sings of strangely affecting details such as souvenir chopsticks and sleek wooden photo frames with an exposed honesty, tying the chorus together with a raw cry of, “I love it all so much/I call, I want you back, back, back”. The delicate and careful ‘Shape Shifter’ comes to life onstage, with all five members of the band lending their soft vocals as a foundation for an almost embarrassingly rousing chorus.

The key to Local Natives’ emotive power is the way that Taylor and Rice, like sagely, bearded sirens, coax audiences to prick up their ears and open their hearts, in a set doused with sadness, but set alight with celebration. So good, they named themselves twice, indeed.

Chris Mandle

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