Local Natives are front and center, if not a bit awestruck, in collaboration with a chamber orchestra.
“This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to play a real piano live,” said Local Natives’ keyboardist Kelcey Ayer toward the end of the Silver Lake indie band’s raucous debut with a chamber orchestra on Saturday. He then pointed at his usual instrument, a relatively humble Nord synthesizer. “I hate that thing. But this is like....” He hugged the breadth of Walt Disney Concert Hall’s grand piano and grinned, content.
Even on their 2010 debut album, “Gorilla Manor,” Local Natives seemed to want to go bigger. The band plays a pretty, traditional take on guitar-based indie pop, but the five-piece laces each song with four-part harmonies as intricate and crystalline as a stained-glass window. Their percussion-mad performances show they clearly love being in a band, an easy task after a buzzed-over Coachella set and two sold-out nights at the Music Box last year.
An orchestral collaborative set is a daunting opportunity for musicians still in their early 20s. But in their world of guitars, drums and voices, Local Natives already thought like an orchestra. To add an actual one only underlined the many things they do well.
The first half of the set, a campfire take on half a dozen singles with a string quartet, served mostly as a showcase for those voices. Ayer, guitarists Ryan Hahn and Taylor Rice, and bassist Andy Hamm suggest Crosby, Stills & Nash in the way they approach melody, less as something on top of an arrangement than as a space for the whole band to work. Confined to acoustic instrumentation, songs like “Eyes Wide” and a cover of Television’s “Careful” felt intriguingly democratic. Rice is ostensibly the lead singer, but mostly because he’s in the middle of the stage.