House of Blues
October 8, 2016
"Hello, Houston," said vocalist Taylor Rice two songs into Local Natives' performance. "It's been awhile."
It certainly had been.
Nearly three years to the day since the California quintet last performed in Houston, Local Natives returned to the Bayou City Friday evening on tour in support of their third studio album, Sunlit Youth.
Released last month, Sunlit Youth was the driving force behind Local Natives’ set. More than half of the songs performed were from the new record, which exhibits a tighter, albeit less ethereal sound than its predecessors.
Local Natives played a total of nine songs from their widely acclaimed previous albums, Gorilla Manor and Hummingbird. These older cuts – notably “Wide Eyes,” “You and I” and “Sun Hands” – drew the largest cheers from the crowd, perhaps because Sunlit Youth hasn't been out for very long.
But despite the fairly tepid response from concertgoers during their newer songs, Local Natives put on quite the show Friday, flaunting their musical maturity as an impressively tight outfit over the incessant banter of a chatty crowd.
The stage lighting was perfectly subtle, and a few concertgoers even likened it to a James Turrell exhibit. Hues of blue, purple and magenta emanated from behind the band during the more delicate tracks, while flashing white lights amplified the group’s intensity during other percussion-driven songs.
Charlotte Day Wilson, whose opening set had impressed most of the crowd, returned to the stage for "Dark Days," a duet she performed with the band for Sunlit Youth. Before "Fountain of Youth," Rice implored fans to eschew their cynicism and vote in the upcoming election. And to cap off the evening, Rice hopped into the crowd and rode a wave of hands during the final chorus of "Sun Hands."
Despite the amount of time in between visits, Local Natives fondly remember their first trip to Houston. In 2010, when the band first began generating national buzz, they performed at the now-defunct Mango’s to a sold-out crowd.
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"Is that place still open?" Rice asked the crowd. "It felt like a big house party."
And even with a few apathetic concertgoers and less inspired material, Saturday night kind of felt like one too.