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Review: Local Natives Make Triumphant Return at CMJ

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

In their first live show in over 10 months, Local Natives lit up the stage with new material at Bowery Ballroom.

In this article…

When Local Natives walked on stage after midnight at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night as the headliner for the Champion Apparel CMJ Showcase, the crowd showered them with screams of, "Welcome back!"  "Welcome back, guys!"  Last night was the first live performance for the band in over ten months (and their first New York City show in two years).  The city was glad to have them back, and they looked happy to be back up on stage.

The time off wasn't spent just sitting around, though.  Local Natives just finished recording their second album, Hummingbirds, right here in Brooklyn.  Gorilla Manor, their breakout debut album put this band on the map.  Their gorgeous, soulful vocal harmonies combined with rousing percussion and intricate blends of guitars and keyboars (and strings on the album versions) are a pure joy to listen to.  I was wondering how that would transfer to their live show, and was reassured outside that they go "above and beyond" in concert.

Boy, was he right.  They played 14 songs on the evening, sweeping through their catalogue with so much emotion and energy that I felt like I had just finished running a marathon afterwards.  Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer shared double duty on lead vocals all night, alternating between lead and backing.  Their voices are practically interchangeable, so much so that I thought Rice was lead vocal on all the songs before seeing them.  The rest of the group was there pitching in to create those wonderful harmonies, and They played several of the new songs to everyone's delight.  They began with a slow-burner, "Black Socks," that built up to a rousing finish.  Next was their first single off the album, "Breakers," and that was an absolute jam.  

I counted eight new songs in total for the set, and they ran the gamut from slow to uptempo.  "Columbia" had an especially somber tone, a song they said was incredibly important to them.  They performed "Bowery," fittingly enough, at the Bowery Ballroom for its debut.  There was no drop-off in quality from their first cut of songs to this one.  They all displayed the qualities that made their first album so good, and it sounded like a logical progression.

Of course, the ones we all knew got the crowd really into it.  "Wide Eyes," "World News," and "Warning Sign" proved just as awesome live.  My personal favorite, "Who Knows, Who Cares," sent everyone into hysterics.  We all sang along with Rice and hollered our "OH OH'S!!" during the call-and-response at the frantic conclusion of the song.  While the album version is amazing to listen to, my goodness does the live version take it to a whole new level.

For their encore, they played one new and two old.  They started with the new, "Three Months," which had an incredibly cool vibe to it.  They followed that up with "Airplanes," a really beautiful song, and Ayer actually forgot one of the first lyrics two lines in.  The rest of the band picked him up, but Rice couldn't let off the hook. 

"Um, did you guys notice that Kelcey forgot the lyrics at the start of 'Airplanes?'  That's how focused we have been on this new album!"

They finished up with "Sun Hands," the perfect song to finish on a high note and give everyone a rousing conclusion to the show.  I can't think of enough good things to say about this band.  Their songs are even more powerful to take in live, they play with amazing energy throughout, and they sound absolutely fantastic.  Hummingbirds can't come out soon enough.

Welcome back, guys.

Check back all week for more updates, photos, and videos from the CMJ Music Marathon.


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