Little Dragon at the O2 Academy Brixton
Little Dragon frontwoman Yukimi Nagano glows from top to bottom, but she might as well be in silhouette, with only her form picked out in neon under blacklight. Behind Nagano, her three almost-familial bandmates, Erik Bodin, Fredrik Wallin and Håkan Wirenstrand, stand in shadow, prodding at synths and tapping out rhythms.
With this visual in mind, it’s surprising that Little Dragon operate on a such a level playing field. Keen beats, chest-pounding basslines and inventive melodies are given ample space to move among the soulful vocals. It seems that during the bands career – spanning, at this point, almost two decades – Nagano has withdrawn from the tantrums that initially gave the band, and her, their name.
That’s not to say she doesn’t contribute a lively performance, however. Alternating between bouts of sedated hand swaying and fits of enlivened percussive maneuvers performed on a teardrop tambourine, Nagano is a ball of energy, capable of pulling shapes and vogueing with the best of them.
Despite their electronica, synth-pop trappings, Little Dragon feel like a band. Live drums and percussion certainly adds a vibrancy to their sound, but it’s the way they coordinate and synchronise that really pulls them together as a unit. Whether performing R&B influenced Killing Me or the more stripped back Twice the band are capable of some superb, well-practiced performances.
Some pre-recorded artifacts unavoidably make their way into some tracks – Klapp Klapp transitions into the band’s usual buzzing electronica from the riff of an unseen double bass – but in general, this is musician’s synth-pop, with live performance at the heart of everything they do.
There’s a downside to the band’s impartial promotion of its various musical elements. Key melodies, and more often than not Nagano’s vocals, get lost in the mix, leaving many tracks to go without an audible hook to keep things interesting.
It’s a solid performance nonetheless, and though one finds oneself occasionally drifting off, the lasers, lights and glowing band members provided plenty of visual distraction to keep boredom at bay. It’s a solid show, but with so many other acts now nipping at Little Dragon’s heels in similar space, it’s really time for the four piece to up their game.
Joe Manners Lewis
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information about Little Dragon and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Klapp Klapp here: