Live review: Local Natives + New Gods + Texture Like Sun – The Zoo, Brisbane – 19th May 2013

Local Natives have been wowing fans up and down the country of late, and hot on the heels of their second album Hummingbird, they’re in town with the aim of doing the same to Brisbane. Drawing favourable comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, the quartet are well-known for their multiple harmonies and classy song-writing. The Zoo’s stage awaits their talents.

First up for tonight’s gig is Melbourne indie-folk duo Texture Like Sun, who provide an understated but increasingly attention-grabbing performance with a series of ominously-haunting piano melodies and soaring vocals. Their song ‘One Great Prize’ is a good starting point for checking these guys out, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Texture Like Sun

Texture Like Sun

The second support for tonight is Melbourne indie-rock quintet New Gods, who will possibly forever be described as featuring former members of Little Red; that once omnipotent but ultimately substance-free band of pop-lite not-quite-pretty boys who released a couple of chart-bothering tunes a couple of years ago. I immediately have flashbacks of a tragic night at The Hi-Fi in Brisbane, watching baying hordes of over-privileged teenage girls try to levitate their virginities in the general direction of any or all of the relatively unskilled band members, as the objects of their affections alternate between blushing under the swell of pheromone-fuelled adulation and jostling each other for a slice of the limelight and pick of the skirts.

Thankfully, New Gods aren’t like any of that – for the most part – and as I write a quick note by which to remember their set, a satisfying rhythm falls across the paper: “The little boys from Little Red… have become men and learned to shred.” While elements of dreamy pop inevitably slip into their set from time to time, they are at their best when guitarists Adrian Beltrame and Dominic Byrne let rip with the riffs, which they do really well; although writing a song about Bill Hicks and throwing your guitar gently and politely to the ground with an “I’ll-fix-it-later” look on your face doth not a rock star make. Next time, I want to be picking shards of your fretboard out of my eyeballs (with bleeding fingers) for a month, if you please.

New Gods

New Gods

And so: California’s Local Natives. When Hummingbird came out earlier in the year, I was quick to hassle people in relation to its greatness, claiming it to be one of the albums of 2013 already; and I stand by that. Top-notch tuneage seeps from every pore of that record – it’s a exquisitely crafted piece of work that will still sound great when we’re all just a bump in the graveyard grass. Alas, this is a review of a live show, not an album.

I was recently chatting to a friend about seeing Wild Beasts at Laneway Festival in 2010, and how totally disappointed we were with their show, especially considering they had just released such a top album in Two Dancers. It was tame in almost every sense of the word; all the right songs were there, played to perfection, but where was the performance? Every ‘T’ was crossed and ‘I’ dotted in terms of how the songs sounded, but where was the heart? Where was the soul? The audience engagement? It was as fun as being in your bedroom with their record playing in the background, and a couple of hundred random people along for the ride. The same could be said for tonight’s show.

Local Natives

Local Natives

“Hello, how are you? This is our last night in Australia, and we have a lot of songs for you tonight,” offers Kelsey Acer to a half-filled Zoo, before the band kick into ‘You & I’, with plenty of exaggerated arm-swinging on the down strum, and a range of well-practised facial expressions to show just how serious this band takes itself. As with Wild Beasts, the songs are all there; and are replicated in a note-perfect manner, including ‘Ceilings’, ‘Mt. Washington’, ‘Airplanes’, ‘Colombia’, and the sublime ‘Heavy Feet’, but despite unquestionably great musicianship and a fine range of facial hair, there’s something missing from this show that leaves me feeling – dare I say it – bored.

A mid-set cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Warning Sign’ provides some relief from the earnestness, and when it’s time for an encore The Zoo’s audience doesn’t exactly put up a fight to get the band back on-stage. Watching them pick up their instruments and strike up another couple of indifferent chords is enough for me, and I’m down the stairs to freedom in a matter of seconds. Disappointing.

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