Little Dragon, Shepherd's Bush Empire
Take a bow, Damon Albarn. He's not
actually on stage, but he may well be the reason a good portion of the crowd has
Albarn featured Little Dragon on the last Gorillaz album, where Yukimi Nagano's close knit vocals and their layers of shimmering synths commanded attention. The next album by the Swedish electro-pop outfit, this summer's Ritual Union, turned flickerings of interest into confirmed fires of enthusiasm.
Their music has a clipped precision, the compressed energy of a tightly coiled spring. A five piece, they all seem to be making beats, all the time: on drum kits, with odd bits of percussion, tapping away at multiple – and multi-coloured - drum pads, and swept along with natty keyboard and bounding bass lines. Sometimes, that little traditional musicianship and that many electronic gizmos can be dull live. But Little Dragon have an engaging frontwoman in Nagano, even if her Swedish-Japanese vocals stylings are more of the hip, icy-cool variety than the technically impressive. The group also take sufficient detours on their radio-friendly hits, pumping them up into sprawling, pulsating live versions.
They offer familiar numbers from early on: single 'Ritual Union' is the second track. It's been one of my songs of the year, with its frankly addictive whoosh of synth. I keep putting it on to dance to at parties, and it's pleasing to see some wide-armed moves and shapes from Nagano.
Not that the crowd follows suit: perhaps it's a bit soon for such expansiveness (many people are still holding drinks, which flailing does imperil). It's not till 'Summertearz', a good eight songs in, that a spark ignites the audience. Little Dragon take a ploddy album track and render it totally exuberant: sharp, seductive, unstoppably building into a big clubby number.
They'd still like more, though – they clearly know how to party in Gothenberg. “My dad is here tonight, he better dance,” quips Nagano, before admonishing the rest of us: “come on you guys, a little movement.” She almost conducts the audience, getting hands in the air, as we move into unashamed dance anthem territory.
It all makes for a very enjoyable gig experience, reaching an apex on 'Little Man'. With a fast-running rhythm, a wriggly melody, and Nagano's crisp delivery, anyone whose hips aren't at least twitching should probably be checked for vital signs. Fiery stuff.
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