Sweden’s Little Dragon have been toiling away for years, and their sound has grown with them. Their most recent album, Nabuma Rubberband, is more melancholy than their previous output. Listening to it, it;’s clear the band have moved on from their original jazz influences to create a thoughtful take on synth pop.
On stage, against a backdrop of multi-coloured light sabres, lead singer Yukimi Nagano twirled around in a luminous tangerine dress, showing who’s the boss; the rest of band faded into the background, a musical prop for Nagano’s natural charisma.
Most of their current album got an airing tonight. Its sounds were calculated, slick and cinematic and had unexpected and abrupt endings. The mellowed funk of Pretty Girls and the rush of Paris rocked the room. Nagano sounded more at ease on tracks like the former, where the instrumentation was minimal. It allowed her to take the main role in the track, instead of getting drowned out by loud synths. Despite some strong performances, not all of the new tracks survived the live test. Underbart, for example, lacked soul – a disappointment for such a great recorded song.
Some golden oldies got a look in too, and the crowd was treated with a frantic version of My Step, complete with additional cowbells. Precious morphed into an afrobeat track, allowing the bassist and the drummer to jam together. Cat Rider also failed to pick the set up. It was later saved by Ritual Union, one of Little Dragon’s best known tracks.
But any lulls were quickly repaired. “London, do you want to hear some bass?” Nagano asked before going into Shuffle A Dream, another track from Ritual Union. The video game synth arpeggios and heavy bass line of Shuffle A Dream get the crowd back into a bounce.
Nagano skipped off stage after performing Klapp Klapp, but fortunately that wasn’t the end of the show. After the band played on their own for a further 10 minutes, she waltzed back to play the catchy Little Man, before pleasing long-time fans with their debut single, Twice. It was a stark contrast to the rest of the set: the haunting pianos and lo-fi production were a million miles away from heavy rhythms and buzzy bass lines of Nabuma Rubberband. But whether they were playing upbeat tracks or some of their more mellow works, the saturation of off-beat bass lines and fervour of Nagano’s vocals kept everyone in the room hooked. This was a performance to be proud of.