It was no secret that it was Local Natives‘ first time playing the huge Terminal 5 last night. The band mentioned it numerous times throughout their set, and their excitement was obvious. They’d played other venues in New York City before, but last night was different. This was their “first big New York show,” as multi-instrumentalist, Kelcey Ayer, frequently alluded to; plus New York City happened to be the place where they recorded their latest release, Hummingbird (French Kiss). Last night was also their first of back to back shows at Terminal 5—a noteworthy feat for any act. Despite that pressure, Local Natives kicked off their performance without a hitch, tearing into Breakers with the sweet multi-part harmonies the band is so well known for.
Their entire set was an even mixture between their acclaimed 2010 debut album, Gorilla Manor (French Kiss), and this January’s Hummingbird. The carefully selected set list allowed room for foot-stomping tracks like Warning Sign while also easing into slower, more serious songs like Mt. Washington. For loyal fans, the transition between their debut and sophomore album is obvious. Hummingbird grew away from the youthfulness of Gorilla Manor into a somber, direct account of people who have truly experienced heartbreak and despair. This evolution of musical direction was evident in the band’s stage presence. During Airplanes and Colombia, the pain and sadness in each song’s lyrics could be felt throughout the venue, with the audience suddenly taking on a more serious demeanor during an otherwise lively evening.
It’s a testament to Local Natives that they can convey emotions so directly on record and on stage, and their ability to rile up a crowd is equally impressive. “Does this city have a curfew?” sang Taylor Rice during “Camera Talk,” a surefire crowd favorite. And the answer to his question? Of course not, New York City never sleeps! So it was appropriate that their performance was a staggering hour and a half of mind-numbing energy and melodies. The band played a version of Who Knows Who Cares that they created for La Blogotheque and, Rice said, they “wanted to make it special tonight.” The difference from the album version was distinct but not reworked enough to cause any confusion among the inebriated, adoring fans. The L.A. locals closed out their first night at Terminal 5 with their classic, “Sun Hands,” that had every pair of hands clapping and every mouth yelling. “If you know the words, sing along.” There was no need to ask, the crowd was already on it.
Opening for Local Natives was Wild Nothing who played smoothly through their set despite the minor hiccup of their guitarist playing the wrong song two tracks in. Their performance sounded as serene as their record, but the disconnect between the band and crowd felt like Wild Nothing was merely background noise during the waiting period for Local Natives.