Local Natives truly had everything going for them last night at Observatory North Park.
After opener Charlotte Day Wilson, a blossoming performer in her own right, graced the crowd with an intoxicating mix of jazz arrangements and classic R&B vocals, the stage was set.
On just the second night of their Sunlit Youth tour, The Observatory North Park began to fizzle with excitement. I had only seen a handful of comparable crowds at San Diego shows in the past, completely in love not only with this band’s music but wholly engrossed in their aesthetic, dressed to the nines as if to reflect their Silverlake-bred brand of cool right back at them. The Observatory and San Diego itself felt like a natural fit for a band who aim straight for the pleasure center of indie rock, with a great dynamic interplay and deep catalog of recognizable tunes, showcased in a blistering set that satisfied to the last.
The band kicked things off with a bit of new music, remarking how good it felt to air out new songs in front of such a receptive crowd. They’ve earned this adoration, and from the get go established a level of stylistic perfection that didn’t waver in the entirety of their show. Everything was professional and waxed over by intense rehearsal, from their monstrous, writhing guitar interplay to their triggered pad drums to a resplendent light show that made it clear: the marriage of musicianship and visual cohesion bands fight so hard to achieve was already accounted for, and all that was left was for Local Natives to put every ounce of heart they had into their songs. They fed off the crowd with each dynamic swell and flexed some real musical muscle in switching roles almost interchangeably, with every new song backed by a feverish burst of crowd energy.
With all of this positive vibeage and the upbeat ferocity of the new songs, I wondered if Local Natives could also capture the intense emotionality of their sophomore record, Hummingbird, my personal favorite of theirs. I simply had to wait. Late in the show, after “You and I” kissed the ceilings with its spacious guitar detail and “Breakers” shoved my brain into fight or flight levels of emotional awareness, oh, and “Heavy Feet” sailed upon an ocean of melodious splendor, everyone but dual front men Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer left the stage. “Colombia,” given a daringly sparse arrangement, proceeded to induce an absolute fever pitch. Band members trickled back on right before the iconic, “Every night I ask myself, am I giving enough?” coda and the result was stunning. Local Natives had taken us on a splendid mood-altering journey, culminating with this rallying cry of self-absorbed contemplation. All that remained was an all-out assault on “Sun Hands” complete with an awesome crowd surf and the band was gone amid a flurry of noise and a deafening shower of applause.
After taking a significant break from listening to Local Natives, this excellent show immediately rekindled everything I love about their tightly wound yet surprisingly far-reaching sound. The band seem to have matured into a force of nature with their audience along for the ride, and have all the elements in place to maintain success for years. I think I’ve made it clear enough. Go see them.