Live: Local Natives/The Love Language/The Union Line

HOUSE OF BLUES — 10/7/2010: In our fair city, it’s not often that two meaningful concerts are scheduled for the same day; however, that was the case on Thursday. And those of us who resisted the temptation of squirrely guitars over Afro-pop beats were certainly pleased with one of the best concerts in recent memory. Thursday night gifted the moderately-sized crowd at House of Blues with vocal harmonies with a side of mustaches, as headliners Local Natives brought fellow Californians The Union Line and North Carolina’s The Love Language to Houston.

At first, a miserably small crowd loosely dotted the House of Blues to hear the Union Line. It’s a shame that I was unable to hear their whole set; the song I did hear certainly deserved a better audience. Houston began to slowly trickle in as The Love Language took the stage and shared their inspired brand of country-blues-inspired rock. The whole set was full of old-fashioned charm, from the crooning of front man Stuart McLamb to the wall-of-sound production; it took only 40 minutes to turn the quintet from a relative unknown into a group worth your time and attention.

The curtains dropped with the audience in good spirits in anticipation of the headliners. It was hard to not be disappointed in the turnout, though. In a city of 6 million, it’s a wonder how this show didn’t sell out given the buzz behind the headliner.  Luckily, the lack of numbers was made up by the group’s enthusiasm, particularly when the house lights were dimmed in anticipation of Local Natives’ arrival.

The curtains pulled back, and out of a puff of smoke emerged Local Natives, each member behind a microphone in a formation reminiscent of the past boy-band era. Luckily, it was only boy-band appearances, not boy-band talent, as our country would have been a better place had N’Sync sounded like this. Last was first as the band began their set with the final track from Gorilla Manor, a tension-building version of  “Stick Thread.”

Blessed with plenty of musical talent and a good sound man, Local Natives did what they do best: chaotic drums and beautiful vocal harmonies. Whether it’s the new, calmer rendition of  “Cubism Dream” or fan favorites like “Wide Eyes,” Local Natives were a joy to witness.

It was a wonderful performance, not just for a relatively new band, but for any band. Songs were precise without feeling sterile and over-rehearsed. That mysterious concept of the band’s “energy” was about as tangible as it gets.  As good as the recording of Gorilla Manor is, it can’t capture just how good it sounds live. Performed live, Gorilla Manor is a completely different experience. The layers of orchestration needed for the CD seem unnecessary in their live performances. Songs that might feel appropriate as background  to our daily routine are pushed to the forefront of your attention.

It’s hard to believe that just two years earlier, Local Natives played to an audience of five at Walter’s. Their meteoric rise from relative obscurity to indie-rock darlings is well-deserved. Despite the fact that Gorilla Manor is a fantastic album, it’s Local Natives’ live performances that convince you that Local Natives can be more than a flash in the indie-rock pan.  It’s the live performances that showcase the band’s overabundance of musical talent. It’s here where you can fully grasp just how good Local Natives are and just how good they can be. END

Photos by Chris Weeden.

Live review by . Live review posted Tuesday, October 19th, 2010. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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