A feeling of anticipation spread around the dense crowd at La Tulipe on Wednesday evening as New Zealand-based group Ruby Suns, the second of two opening bands, cleared their set and strolled offstage. The anxious crowd bobbed to the electro-pop beats played by the openers, but what they were really waiting for was Local Natives.
The band has gained much attention in the festival scene over the past year for their three-part harmonies and solid songwriting. Band members Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Andy Hamm, and Matt Frazier formed in 2008 in Silver Lake, a neighbourhood of Los Angeles, and released their debut album, Gorilla Manor, earlier this year.
An energetic burst of sound erupted from the stage as the stylish indie rockers began their set. The loosely-gathered audience tightened as the room filled with excited screams. The three lead vocalists, Rice, Ayer and Hahn as well as back-up vocalist/bassist Hamm positioned themselves in a straight line while percussionist Frazier, who was also set up with a microphone, sat behind.
The band traded in their fast-paced opening for a small succession of mellow tunes. Fans sang along with the lyrics through smiling mouths and many people danced throughout the concert, although this was reduced to sways during the slower parts of the set.
For their third song, the band played a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Warning Sign,” which the crowd accepted with pleasure. A recorded version of the track appears on Gorilla Manor.
Recorded, Local Natives’ music is quite low-key and delicate but their live performance gave off a different vibe. The music sounded heavier and more robust, making it a full-bodied performance. This may have had the effect of throwing off fans who had not yet experienced the band live.
However, if this was so, it was not apparent in the way that the crowd reacted during the concert.
The impressive light show which accompanied each set gave a vibrant touch to the show. Electric blue lights cascaded over the group during their more mellow songs, while bright red and yellow lights darted around the stage, upping the intensity of their more animated tunes.
Their voices echoed in the classic theatre. Each singer possessed an awe-inspiring vocal range which produced pitch-perfect harmonies that are often difficult to pull off in a live performance.
Local Natives demonstrated a captivating stage presence that could warrant rock-star status. Guitarist Rice would back away from the microphone to dance in rhythmic, high-energy bursts, while Hahn would lean into his instruments as if fully immersing himself in the moment.
The three lead vocalists showed off their competency on multiple instruments by interchanging the guitar, keyboard, and percussion. Hahn played the mandolin in one of the final songs which made a beautiful contribution to the overall set.
The band played their final song and disappeared backstage. People started to slowly filter out as dedicated fans quickened the pace and intensified the strength of their stomps and cries. As to be expected of a headlining band, Local Natives re-emerged to give a two-song encore. The final encore ended climatically with a high-energy and instrumentally-complex song which thoroughly demonstrated their musical agility and talent. Local Natives’ visit to Montreal was one that undoubtedly left their fans wanting more.
Local Natives are currently touring North America and Europe.