Gothenburg, Sweden’s Little Dragon make a compelling case for following those inner voices. The group’s members have only been in one band, only done one thing, and it’s an equation that squares itself into one of the most interesting, and inspiring, bands to come out of the last several years. From the quarry of R&B, club, soul and hip hop, Little Dragon have sculpted a sound completely their own – one that seems obvious in hindsight but took three, then four, self-described weirdos the entirety of their adult lives to bring to us.
Hot, packed and dancing on Friday, New York’s Terminal 5 was a scene rarely seen, in which nearly everyone in attendance was engaged and enthusiastic, their pretensions left at the curb. With Fredrik Källgren Wallin and Håkan Wirenstrand making melodies on either side of the stage and Erik Bodin hemmed in behind the raised drum kit, the job of crowd engagement rested squarely with Yukimi Nagano, and she carried its weight effortlessly. Barefoot and at ease onstage, flitting between impassioned and lackadaisical, Nagano is less charismatic than instructional, a how-to on letting go, or just never needing to, like a Sesame Street moral come to life. Her face has a sleepy, calming contour that’s easily stared-at, and her dancing is carefree and natural, punctuated by timed punches to an immaculately choreographed and deceptively gigantic light show. Nagano’s voice has a full, wavy heft that’s remarkable to witness, strained at times and mathematically precise when required.
The set drew from every corner of the band’s catalog, each song extended and caressed into a flow of beeping riffage and rhythmic interplay. Their music takes on a new aspect live, its club backbone emboldened, the tender passages less prevalent, the thump like a chest pound. “Little Man,” sly and placid on record, became a jittering and joyous thing. The percolating “My Step” got its “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”-referencing melody blown out and trumpeted, turning the song’s chase-scene chorus into an unimpeachable get-down. The third and final song of the encore, “Twice,” was the first song the band ever released.
Writing on her blog about the release of Little Dragon’s third full-length album, Ritual Union, and the current tour, Nagano said, “Peace lets escape soon.” It was a dashed-off invitation that ably captured Nagano’s (and by extension her band’s) entire essence. They only have their music pushing them forward. It’s their escape and their full-frontal reality, all at once. We should count ourselves lucky to be invited.
“Brush the Heat”
“After the Rain”
“Shuffle a Dream”
“Nightlight” + “Blinking Pigs”