Throughout the year, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of bands that make their way through Portland's collection of bars, concert halls and arenas. Lots of these shows are good - some of them are even great - but there are only a small handful of evenings in any given 12-month period where talent, showmanship, and kismet come together to create a truly memorable, sometimes even transcendent night. Thursday night's concert with Local Natives and Kings of Leon at the Moda Center was one of those moments.
Normally headliners in their own right, Los Angeles indie-rockers Local Natives kicked off the evening (and their first appearance at the Rose Quarter) with a short, introspective set that featured songs off both their debut and sophomore albums, including a stellar rendition of perhaps their best-known song, "Airplanes." Although they're markedly less rocky than Kings of Leon, the band's pitch perfect harmonies are chilling to hear, live.
There's been quite a bit of discussion in critical circles (including a fairly negative piece on the band by Willamette Week the day before the show) about whether or not Kings of Leon's most recent album and subsequent performances measure up against their early work, but I don't think anyone at the Moda Center would have given any credence to those doubts, especially once the band began to play. Two thirds of the way through their Mechanical Bull tour, the Followill brothers have crafted a show that is close to flawless. With a massive LED screen as their background, the band started out with their 2007 track, "Charmer," before making their way through over two dozen songs, including all of their best-known songs (The Bucket, Supersoaker, Sex on Fire, etc) with nary a false note. One of the highlights of the evening came at the end, when crowd began singing along with the band during "Use Somebody." Several thousand people, all singing in unison while bathed in a sea of light, was a spectacular cap to an evening that was almost overwhelmingly good.