In the music spotlight: Local Natives

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Local Natives | ©2016 Bryan Sheffield

Local Natives are among the first acts from this summer’s Lollapalooza to return to Chicago. Following a warm-up show at Columbia College, the Los Angeles band’s previous visit to town on July 31 found them on the Bud Light stage at the north end of Grant Park. The quintet performed to thousands of its own fans on the sunny Sunday, and to thousands more who arrived early for headliner Ellie Goulding.

Guitarist and singer Taylor Rice had braided his hair to keep it off his neck in the afternoon heat, while bassist Nik Ewing let it fly free. The group split time equally among its first two albums, 2009’s “Gorilla Manor” and 2013’s “Hummingbird.” Songs including the Afropop-influenced “Wide Eyes” and clattering “Breakers” benefited from Matt Frazier’s creative drumming and Local Natives’ strong four-part vocal approach, but what distinguished the set was its preview of material from its then-forthcoming album. “Sunlit Youth” was released earlier this month.

“I think we better listen to these kids,” sang Rice during new song “Fountain of Youth.” The song spoke to the collective energy of the young and its best potential. “We can do whatever we want, we can say whatever we mean,” joined guitarist Ryan Hahn and keyboardist Kelcey Ayer during the chorus. The sentiment was expressed without a bratty or childish attitude, but rather with a sense of empowerment. It was welcome encouragement to remain optimistic and idealistic despite suffocating cynicism.

The band has been on a globe-trotting tour since mid-August. After a few days at home while “Sunlit Youth” hit streaming sites and record store shelves, Local Natives are back on the road throughout North America and Europe until the holiday season. Someone at the band’s booking agency had the good humor to wrap the band’s tour on Thanksgiving Day in Turkey.

* Local Natives, with Charlotte Day Wilson, 8 p.m., Sep. 26, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine. Tickets $27.50-$30 (ages 18+);

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email:

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