Gig Review: Local Natives at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

Local Natives at Belgrave Music Hall. Picture: Jenessa Williams
Local Natives at Belgrave Music Hall. Picture: Jenessa Williams
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It’s been raining steadily in Leeds for two weeks, it’s dark by 5pm and seasonal affectiveness disorder is in full swing. We need some Californian sunshine, and we need it fast. A Local Natives show it seems, is the perfect antidote, their latest European tour in support of heartfelt and expansive record, Violet Street.

Before all that though, we’re treated to a visit from one of our very own. Until 2017, Tom Fleming was known as co-vocalist of intellectual-indie outfit Wild Beasts, but now he steps out as One True Pairing, greeting an audience of ‘Lads, Gals and Non-Binary Palz’ with industrial grooves and baritone vocals that speak of issues of toxic masculinity, classism and brutishness.

His performance draws an inquisitive crowd who bob their chins approvingly during the excellent ‘Dawn At The Factory’ and ‘Elite Companion’, but his tongue-in-cheek claim to be putting ‘the cum in Cumbria’ perhaps falls a little flat with an audience not familiar with his penchant for embodying the kayfabe in order to subvert the worst of lad culture. He’ll be back at this venue in November for a headline show, and with a little time at home to digest the record, it’s easy to imagine that a lot of this audience will be lured back.

It’s getting harder to see the stage as the room fills, but the burst of kaleidoscopic light that introduces Local Natives suits them to a tee. Five albums in, they possess a catalogue that makes for a glorious setlist journey – fan favourite ‘Sun Hands’ is dropped early, and songs from Hummingbird, 2013’s devasting concept record dedicated to the loss of singer Kelsey Ayer’s mother feel reborn and reimagined, performed with the subtle groove that fuels their latest record.

It’s reflective of the better place they all find themselves in personally – introducing ‘When Will I Lose You’, Taylor Rice reveals that he has overcome the neurosis of the songs’s subject in order to marry and conceive ‘the first Local Natives baby’, and a mid-set shout-out goes to bassist Nik, who met his now-wife at our very own Brudenell Social Club.

Their joy is palpable, and it energises their delivery – swapping instruments, jostling for space, and of course, delivering the harmonies that have defined their career – soaring three-parters that beg for acapella delivery just so you can pick every ounce of deliciousness apart.

As a crowd we’re torn between singing along, and realising that doing so means we can’t hear the beauty in front of us, so we quieten ourselves, content with watching and clasping the hands of our friends.

From ‘Fountains Of Youth’s empowering message (something of a prophecy to the likes of Greta Thunberg) to the passionate closer of ‘Who Knows Who Cares’, the evening carries an emotional energy of release. The world may seem like a scary space, but in growing publically through love and musicianship, Local Natives proof that there are always small pockets of celebration to be nurtured, milestones big and small to mark.

In the encore of ‘Tap Dancer’, Taylor sings “I wish there was magic every day”. Tonight, it feels like there was.