Little Dragon @ O2 Academy, Oxford 26.02.12

Little Dragon flew onto stage on an almost-balmy February night in Oxford, bringing their box of tricks to leave an enraptured audience captivated with their dream-pop trip-hop adventures.

Feb 26th, 2012 at O2 Academy, Oxford / By Dave Reynolds
Little Dragon The Little Dragon live show consists of several Nordic dudes forming the musical spine, occasionally swapping between keys, synths, drums and bass guitar. And then we have Yukimi Nagano, who looks, sounds, and is a bit of a superstar. Despite most of the band having worked on many of the high-profile collaborations that have popped up in recent times, Yukimi is so often the face and voice of those tracks. It is nigh on impossible not to spend the entire show watching her dancing around the stage, most of the time with a drumstick in her hand to beat seven-shades of colour out of her multi-coloured drum machine. She’s engaging, enigmatic and mesmerising in her performance.

With three albums to their name, the set list feels meaty and full. Opening up with ‘Looking Glass’ from their 2nd album, immediately the crowd are treated to what makes this band work so well live. The live drums and electronic beats harmonise and interact with each other in an almost surreptitious way. The live drums offer up that sharper, more punctured sound, and the electronic beats form a softer cadence, looping itself around, like candy floss on a stick.

The show moves on in a blaze of blaring primary colours, with Nagano tearing around the stage exultantly. Tracks that feel like big stand-out moments from their third album fly by, with ‘Ritual Union’ and ‘Shuffle A Dream’ sounding incredibly sharp and tight. ‘Brush The Heat’ is a hot and sticky moment, with blistering red stage lights baking the atmosphere for a slower-jam; Nagano’s vocals stay low as a wiry synth barbs above.

The changes of pace are excellently executed. ‘Summertearz’ comes across sounding like a modern ballad, with a deliciously thick bass-line. By this point, Fredrik Källgren Wallin has given up on his other musical duties to focus on the bass, the noise of which shudders between the dancing crowd.

The encore arrives with Little Dragon really just plain showing off. ‘Look at all these great tracks we haven’t played yet’ is probably what Nagano is thinking as she shares a story about their tour manager coming 4th in an ice cream eating competition earlier in the day. ‘Little Man’ is a jumpy, fun-house of noise, with Nagano’s vocals tracking the synth in the chorus. The show ends with the hypnotic ‘Twice’, an undercurrent of glitchy electro noise running underneath. It’s a beautiful end to a hugely engaging show.