Local Natives, Heaven, London
Wednesday 10 March 2010
It's not uncommon for US bands to be embraced in the UK before their homeland catches on to their charms. Certainly the Strokes, Kings of Leon and MGMT were playing big gigs and posing for magazine covers over here while, stateside, they could barely attract a groupie. It's not too often it happens the other way round (let's not forget Jay Sean, though – America, you're welcome).
While Los Angeles quintet Local Natives are certainly not in the big league yet, they are definitely following in this tradition, having found an early appreciation in the UK. In fact, their debut album, Gorilla Manor, was released here last November, while it's only been available in the US since last month.
The band's use of soaring vocal harmonies most obviously associates them with Fleet Foxes. But while the Seattle-based Fleet Foxes concern themselves with mythical landscapes, Local Natives are defiantly West Coast, in sound and subject. There are certainly wistful moments in their music, but it is also youthful, laid-back and excitable. Whether singing about departed grandfathers, travelling or ex-girlfriends, the band's use of three-part harmonies and euphoric choruses strike a familiar chord.
Live, however, Local Natives have more in common with another US "It" band, Grizzly Bear. Like them, Local Natives line themselves evenly across the front of the stage. The music is such a fusion of sound that no-one is the centre of attention; there is no traditional front man. There is also the same dedication in both bands; seeing the boys immersed in playing, you almost feel like you're imposing on a private moment. They are incredibly tight despite having such complex compositions, and while they casually swap around instruments, not once does the quality dip.
Highlights at the sold-out show include the moody "Card & Quarters", "Wide Eyes", which takes you to a hot evening in the desert, and a fantastic cover of Talking Heads' "Warning Sign". The crowd gets most excitable during "Airplanes", perhaps their best-known hit. But it's the soaring, evocative "Who Knows, Who Cares" that is their finest moment, impossible to ignore for the Arcade Fire-esque orchestration.
In fact, Local Natives seem to share so many qualities with other current, critically acclaimed bands that you could dismiss them as impostors. Do so at your peril; you'll be missing out.
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