Since their debut at the Academy 2 back in September ’09 Irish audiences just haven’t been able to get enough of Local Natives – tonight’s show in Whelan’s sold out in an instant, with nothing but a lead single in the form of ‘Breakers’ to whet appetites for the band’s new material. Hummingbird, the follow up to their wildly popular first offering Gorilla Manor, has since been released – and there has been mixed feelings towards it, to say the least. The band quite literally ‘hooked’ us in with their harmonic indie-rock debut, but with their second full length effort they branched out and embraced a more expansive sound; not as instantly catchy – but a definite grower, if given the time.
Support this evening comes from five-piece Belgian band Balthazar, who manage to cajole a very giddy Whelan’s audience into listening attentively to their intriguing and complex brand of pop-rock – the a capella chanting of ‘Blood Like Wine’ closing out the set by encouraging revellers to “raise a glass to the night-time”, and that they do. Their second studio album is set for release on February 25th – one to keep a keen ear out for. The headliners themselves obviously approve, with Taylor Rice enjoying the set right beside us on the balcony.
The anticipation for the main event is palpable – as the waiting game continues the afore-mentioned giddy audience are veering into baying mob territory, before Local Natives arrive onstage launch into Hummingbird opener ‘You & I’ – and it is instantly evident that it’s a record which is going to take on a whole new lease of life played out live. “We worked really hard on our second album, so we’re gonna play you lots of new songs!”, declares Rice. Absolutely fine by us. The album’s singles to date, ‘Breakers’ and ‘Heavy Feet’, go down very well – in particular the amped-up take on the latter. Both ‘Mt. Washington’ and ‘Wooly Mammoth’ emerge as the anthemic powerhouses they were destined to be, whereas in contrast ‘Ceilings’ and especially the poignant ‘Columbia’ are arresting in a more subdued manner. Local Natives are an absolute pleasure to watch performing live – mutli-tasking musicianship at its finest, members instrument-hopping and double-jobbing with ease around the stage, with the dual vocal talents of Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer dazzling in their crystal clarity and backed up by impeccable multi-part harmonising.
In spite of the crowd’s appreciation for all things new, it’s the tracks from Gorilla Manor that threaten to blow the roof off Whelan’s – ‘Wide Eyes’ providing some familiarity early on, ‘Camera Talk’ upping the ante mid-set, and the back-to-back duo of ‘World News’ and ‘Airplanes’ towards the end of the main set turning it into an all out sing-along, dance-along, clap-along fiesta. That same winning formula is adopted for their encore, too – the formidable gradual build of ‘Who Knows Who Cares’ teamed with a frenzied rendition of ‘Sun Hands’. “Without wanting to sound like a broken record”, says Rice, “Ireland is one of the first places we played overseas – and we just love it here. Thanks so much for having us!” Such is the extent of Local Natives’ gratitude, they announced live on stage that they’ll be returning for a date in The Olympia this autumn. Watch this space…
Photos: Debbie Hickey