Local Natives, Breton and Cloud Control: The Leadmill, Sheffield

Local Natives are out on tour in support of their second album ‘Hummingbird’, following the success of their debut ‘Gorilla Manor’. After a slight line-up change (with their bassist only becoming an ‘official member’ this month!) it seems the band is better than ever, with their popularity continuously growing. It seems like there’s a great deal of excitement about tonight’s gig, and The Leadmill in Sheffield is full on this blustery Friday night.

First up is London-based electro act Breton, who released their debut album ‘Other Peoples Problems’ in 2012. The band came about as an offshoot of BretonLABS; a collective making video art set to music, which evolved into their unique live show, as we are about to see tonight. Their tracks blend samples of everything from classical music to people’s conversations over grungy electro beats. Frontman Roman Rappak’s engaging vocal style ties the chaos together to form compositions which are genuinely different.  Standout tracks include ‘Edward the Confessor’; a synth-heavy number with wailing vocals and driven by a drum machine, and ‘Jostle’ mixes electronic bleeps with a song not dissimilar to Foals or The Maccabees. No doubt they’re an acquired taste, but the combination of fresh-sounding music with vibrant visual entertainment makes for an interesting start to the evening.

Following Breton are Australian four-piece Cloud Control. Obvious comparisons to Jagwar Ma and Tame Impala have been drawn, and the band do share the same dreamy, psychedelic vibe on occasion. The dual vocals are also reminiscent of our headline act for this evening. Having spent the last few years touring relentlessly and recording their second album ‘Dream Cave’, they’re clearly a confident band and are all musically talented. ‘Scar’ is perfect psych-pop with a catchy chorus and ‘Dojo Rising’ is a blissed out love song over a synth beat.  After Cloud Control’s performance a mellow mood settles over the crowd as they eagerly wait for Local Natives to grace the stage.

The band takes to the stage and opens with ‘Breakers’, and the track’s intricate melodies and delicate harmonies effortlessly sweep through the crowded room. They follow up with ‘World News’ which has more of a folky Fleet foxes vibe, before launching into ‘Wide Eyes’. This is opener to debut album Gorilla Manor, and the tribal drumming and sing-along chorus really gets the energy in the room going. The simple staging of red, white and blue flashes of light means nothing detracts from the music, and adds a powerful atmosphere to the performance. Local Natives then treat us to a cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Warning Sign’, which suits their sound so well it’s as if they’d written it themselves. All the while the band are switching positions, picking up percussion and swapping vocal duties, creating an amazing on-stage dynamic. Although they’re clearly well practised after months of touring, they’re definitely not going through the motions, and the set feels fluid and natural.

The Grizzly Bear-esque ‘Ceilings’ shows off more of the band’s talent for arrangements, as does the amazing ‘You & I’; haunting vocals soar captivatingly across the room before ‘Black Balloons’ takes the performance back to their more folky side. The band pause to tell us how long it’s been since they were last in Sheffield, and reflect on the first time they had a ‘real’ English pie in the city when they were last here. The Leadmill’s main room is filled with fans and its clear Local Natives are grateful for their presence here tonight. As the night draws on, Local Natives continue to create an intimate, emotive atmosphere. The melancholy choral qualities of ‘Shape Shifter’ are swiftly followed by ‘Mt. Washington’, which has echoes of The National; the lyrics are simple but poignant and it feels as if the fans are hooked on every word. However, to a casual listener there might be one too many songs which sound very similar to each other, creating a bit of a lull in the room’s energy.

This is rectified swiftly with fan favourite ‘Airplanes’: catchy and upbeat but with touching lyrics about singer Kelcey Ayer’s mother which seems to get the crowd back into the mood. Although it’s one of their most popular, this song does nothing to exhibit their knack for song writing; I’d even go as far as to say it’s slightly cheesy. They redeem themselves with ‘Colombia’, the chorus reaching an almost anthemic, heart-breaking climax.  The drums on ‘Heavy Feet’ wouldn’t be amiss on a Postal Service record, and ‘Who Knows, Who Cares’ brings the vibe back up to a more upbeat, poppy level, ending in a fantastically executed instrumental ending, not dissimilar to Manchester Orchestra. The tribal, repetitive energy of ‘Sun Hands’ works crowd into a frenzied crescendo, as the set draws to a close.

There is a modest encore of ‘Wooly Mammoth’, the effortless harmonies over a detailed wall of sound and raw percussion  perfectly sums up their sound. Local Natives are a phemomenal live act, who definitely need to be seen to be appreciated. As long as they continue to focus on writing amazing music and not just catchy pop songs they may be on to something special.

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