Some bands rely on the charisma of a sole musician to captivate audiences. Not Local Natives. This was clear last night as soon as First Avenue’s stage lit up in black and white, and Taylor Rice wailed the opening lyrics of “Past Lives,” the first single off of the group’s third LP, Sunlit Youth. They seemed visibly excited to be playing new music, and the fans caught the band’s contagious enthusiasm.
Each member brought a distinct element to the performance. I couldn’t help but marvel at Matt Frazier as he swept the audience into a wave of rhythm with his drum parts during songs like “Psycho Lovers” and “Sea of Years.” Kelcey Ayer’s ability to play drums, keys, and sing all at the same time engrossed the audience.
Each musician is clearly skilled, but the cohesion of all that individual talent in Local Natives shines through brilliantly. The artistic harmony manifested itself during “Wide Eyes,” when the band seemed bewitched by their own music — dancing wildly, yet somehow in sync with one another.
Throughout the show, the L.A.-based quintet showed incredible authenticity and generosity. The group invited the opener, promising new artist Charlotte Day Wilson, on stage for “Dark Days.” They urged audience members to vote. They revealed that a portion of the ticket proceeds were being donated to charity.
The set ended with every person in the legendary venue singing the lyrics of the ballad “Who Knows, Who Cares” off Local Natives’ debut, Gorilla Manor, but the room was too enthralled to leave without an encore. The group climbed back on stage, bathed in an eerie green light. “Sea of Years,” an introspective anthem about longing for youth, resonated throughout the Mainroom. The dark verses gave way to the optimistic and radiant melodies of the chorus, showcasing the group’s growth as songwriters.
The encore ended with singer and guitarist Taylor Rice letting his hair down for the longtime fan favorite “Sun Hands.” The roar of screaming fans was deafening as the band walked off-stage, each member thanking the crowd in earnest.
Listen to Local Natives’ in-studio session, hosted by Jade, today at 1 p.m. on The Current.
Writer Phil Levine is a student at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Steven Cohen is a freelance photographer based in Minneapolis.