Local Natives – review

Concorde2, Brighton

The night is so sultry that the Concorde2's side doors have been opened, offering an enticing view of the nearby beach. As Californians, Local Natives should feel affinity – but Brighton beach just doesn't cut it. Taylor Rice, the opulently moustachioed co-singer/guitarist, went jogging along it this morning and was dismayed to encounter shingle. "There were rocks," he says. "In California, we have sand."

The surprise is considerable: who knew this intense alt-rock quintet jogged?Their milieu is the great indoors, where their four-part harmonies and dual-drummer freak-outs stickily cling to walls. Their LA is not the one of bikinis and endless summer: tonight's opener, You & I, dispels the idea that these tense, perspiring men find much pleasure in blue skies. "In all the light, all I feel is dark," its last verse broods.

Local Natives are toting around extra weight, in the shape of their current album, Hummingbird. An unexpected hit in the US, it was part-motivated by the death of singer Kelcey Ayer's mother, and its songs are some of tonight's most frenetic. Ayer abandons his keyboard and takes centre stage for the rawest of all, Colombia, his keening regret ("I understood all you did for us, you gave and gave") amplified by drumming that increases like a heartbeat.

Their live act is enhanced by the naturalness with which they mix wigged-out breakdowns and pin-sharp technique. At the heart of Shape Shifter's jazz-funk melee are complex percussive patterns, produced by two drummers (most members change instruments at least once per song); a cover of Talking Heads' Warning Sign morphs from tight a-cappella harmonies into an unbridled tribal stomp. Rice makes an excellent David Byrne, jerking as if he's being defibrillated. "Ooh, daddy!" cries an enraptured fan, neatly encapsulating the effect of this intriguing band.

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Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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