I’ve had people urging me to see Local Natives
live since the much-buzzed-about SXSW performance that followed the relea
se of their gorgeous 2009 first album, Gorilla Manor
. Many years and a second album later, last Wed., April 16, during their concert debut at State Theatre in St. Petersburg to a sold-out crowd that sometimes howled along to entire passages, I finally understood what all the fuss was about. [Words by Leilani, photos by Tracy.]
The stage was framed by four square lighting rigs that looked a bit like dice covered in rows of bulbs that flashed, glowed and cycled through hues of bright white, soft blue and warm yellow. The band filtered onto the stage to swells of building sound that crested with their launch into the polyrhythmic percussion of “Breakers” off last year’s Hummingbird
, its heartening vocals paired with the spirited charisma of famously mustached member Taylor Rice amping up the energy in the room almost immediately. Rice sprang around and delivered spirited lead or sang strong harmonies with Kelcey Ayer (keys, percs, guitar) and Taylor Rice (rhythm guitar), the trio’s truly exquisite and ethereal Beach Boys-vibing vocals soaring over the vigorous melody-rich percussion-powered rock. Song two, “World News” off Gorilla Manor
set the place into ecstatic overdrive, and the sing- and shout-alongs began in earnest from then on, not to mention alot of heavy duty arm-pumping.
The 90-minute setlist drew from both Local Natives albums, touching on, among others, the dub-bumpin’ “Camera Talk,” the dark and off-kilter chugging of “Black Balloons,” the Christopher Cross/“Sailing”-channeling “Ceilings,” and set-closer, the rollicking and rising loveliness of “Who Knows, Who Cares.” They performed their distinctive cover of Talking Heads’ “Warning Sign,” opening the first verse a capella style before kicking into an explosion of instrumentals, and they also offered up a creeping, synth-fueled industrial re-imagining of "Out Among the Stars," the titular track off Johnny Cash's lost 1984 album that the band originally recorded for French video series La Blogothèque.
Local Natives returned for a three-song encore that culminated in a fan favorite, the urgent war cry of “Sun Hands,” which found Rice hopping down from the stage into the crowd and leading a jump along into the song’s climax.
The band continually expressed their appreciation to the responsive crowd and promised to return. Based on the turnout to their debut stop in Tampa Bay, they’ll probably have to upgrade to a roomier venue.