Newport Music Hall has always been one of the go-to venues for Columbus locals, being “America’s Longest Continually Running Rock Club.” This was proven on Tuesday when the natives got together on a weeknight to support Local Natives on its Spiral Choir Tour.
The venue was surprisingly not as jam-packed as I have previously experienced, so it was nice to actually be able to breathe and move my elbows without the fear of impeding on someone else’s space.
Opening for the California band was the Tennessee-based artist Devon Gilfillian, who got candid on stage, as a large proportion of his songs reflected on his personal life experiences.
Gilfillian’s music was an interesting change from the kind of music that I would assume the opener for Local Natives would play, and that was probably what made me appreciate it even more.
It was a very nonchalant opening. The lights faded in to him playing with his band, and almost immediately one could understand why Newport was such a revered venue as the acoustics kicked into place, making for a compelling opening act.
The rest of Gilfillian’s band gave his songs a sense of depth, with the members adding to the vocals in the background and their harmonies reverberating together through the walls of the venue.
One thing I could not stop thinking about was how much evoked the vibes of Childish Gamino’s “Awaken, My Love!” album. This was mostly due to the light effects of the stage, with Gilfillian’s Gambino-esque falsetto cutting through the background.
A lot of Gilfillian’s songs were based on personal experiences, which included being stuck in college relationships with people he later found out were not “the one.” The crowd had a kind of understanding energy that I could tell a lot of them went through the same thing.
While Gilfillian’s opening might have been understated, drawing minimal attention, it was really uplifting to see that by the end he had managed to warm the crowd up to him with songs such as “Lonely,” “Good Life” and even a cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls.”
Following Gilfillian’s performance, Local Natives took the stage in a pool of purple light beams, creating an aura that was reinforced with the first song, “Munich II,” from its 2019 album “Violet Street.”
The 46-second song provided the perfect intro music for the band to get on stage and get the crowd’s attention, reeling the audience in with the synthesizer and harmonies.
While most artists might wait for a warmed-up crowd and jump into the pit later on in the night, vocalist Taylor Rice was having none of it.
It took him the entirety of two songs — three including the intro — to find himself supported by the hands of the audience members, surfing through the crowd as they shouted the lyrics to “Sun Hands,” one of the band’s older and more popular songs.
It would’ve been hard to follow up a performance of that intensity, but keyboardist Kelcey Ayer did not let the tempo drop, leading the audience straight into “You & I,” which was also received by the crowd with fervor.
Although this was an admittedly great way to start the show, it was also probably the only eye-catching thing about Local Natives’ performance.
The band took advantage of the crisp acoustics the Newport has to offer — going hard on every piece of percussion that could fit into each song, the sounds of which resonated with each audience member.
More popular songs such as “Dark Days” and “I Saw You Close Your Eyes” seemed to get the highest decibel ratings from the crowd, along with “Coins” and “Fountain of Youth.” The band played a roller coaster-esque set, slowing it down with songs such as “Past Lives” and “Garden of Elysian” and then picking it back up with songs like “Megaton Mile,” which Rice called a “fun song about the apocalypse.”
Beyond the usual show business aspect of a band, Local Natives is also in the business of supporting social causes. Rice said that $1 from each ticket sale was going toward an organization fighting sexual assault.
Columbus is a city that allows so many different genres of music to collide and do more than just coexist. This was on display Tuesday with a groovy, southern soul artist from Nashville, Tennessee, opening for an indie-rock band from Los Angeles, California. Together, they brought a night of great music and mutual respect.