LITTLE DRAGON: LIVE at LANEWAY Sydney 2015
(Album: NABUMA RUBBERBAND May 9, 2014)
This time honoured four-piece band out of Sweden are identifiable by their synthpop, slow jam, jazzy, trip hop, down-tempo, soulful sound. Always interesting, always inventive.
I was looking forward to hearing the tastefully refined material from fourth studio album NABUMA RUBBERBAND played live. They included a couple of older tracks into the set list as well. More perfect.
Overall the set consisted of stronger beat driven up-tempo tunes, obviously a great deal more festival and crowd friendly. So Pretty Girls off the current album was a fine choice. Enjoying this track live was, quite possibly, almost the most pop infused moment for me during the set, but just so smooth and velvety. No choice but to feel good. Real good. The song celebrates a more vintage musical arrangement and it found its rightful position along the well thought out set creating a subtle contrast to those tracks that presented as not so one-dimensional. A track that comes to mind to which it could be compared in this instance and context is the fabulously danceable Klapp Klapp. There’s a definite acoustic feel to this layered song and it’s clearly a multi dimensional perfect piece of musical art. It seemed to transport me from one airy space to another place entirely different, stimulating the imagination in a very visual way. All the while taking in these maestros in action, a tight ensemble and so comfortable on stage with one another. After some fifteen years together, you would expect such an almost family type familiarity.
Front woman Yukimi Nagano had the crowd in the palm of her hand from the moment she appeared on stage. I once read an interview she’d given, in which she’d made a reference to loving music so much, that her heart feels like its actually bursting every single time she appears on stage. I witnessed this. She appeared so at peace and completely blissful. She inhabits such an extreme confidence with respect to stage presence, effortlessly natural. Her moves are so flawlessly rhythmic – she really does dance with her whole body to every beat. Despite this level of command, Nagano remained human and humble, communicating with her audience and inviting participation, a smile that would swallow you whole, throughout. The large crowd felt the sincerity too and responded with great immediacy.
Nagano’s voice is unmistakable. Unique. Infectious. Delicate. I was impressed to hear the band play Underbart, again off their latest release, for more than one reason. Firstly, it showcased a departure lyrically from the other material. So for me it served as a welcome and direct contrast, given the definite strong elements, which reveal themselves in this track. Basically the name of the song is Swedish for ‘Wonderful’. Right here is where I will insert the term ‘paradoxically’, and offer an explanatory note to follow. The lyrics to this song are in fact quite dim and depressing, creating a powerfully ironic form of imagery by song’s completion. It captures the last moments in a man’s life as he drives off a bridge, and details how the time just prior to that point of finality literally feels like the most majestic and monumental of his entire life. The song is navigated by a driving bass and in spite of lyrical content is executed in as light and seamless a fashion as only Little Dragon could masterfully manage. I was truly transfixed, even hypnotized by the breathless moments when Nagano’s higher end vocal range made an impressive appearance and mirrored itself directly against the lyrical juxtaposition and stunningly somber drum beats. She knew how to apply her gorgeous vocal range here deliciously, creating a solid depth, which served as an impressive counter balance to certain hints of a particularly clear and sheer strained fragility. Indeed affirming Little Dragon’s longstanding declaration: emotive sincerity over senseless production. Just the way I like it.
I looked back at the crowd at this point for a second or third time, and they were as engaged and happy as the first. We were treated to extended pure instrumentation solos by the band interspersed throughout, either worked into the middle of a song or offered as a climatic finale to others. This dynamic invited a real club vibe to the set, appreciated by the lively crowd who made the absolute most of the additional dance music. Looking back at everyone for a fourth time, I just couldn’t help but smile.
For all of us already familiar with Little Dragon’s music, it was nothing short of a thrill to hear the first note to Ritual Union from third studio album. The ENTIRE crowd reacted so instantly is testament to the power of this minimalist, yet all encompassing pop melody. Nagano’s understated rhythm and blues-ish falsetto here accompanied the band’s charged synchronicity with shining results.
At the end of the set, I looked on as the crowd dispersed, as I always do, and I just knew they were leaving content. Little Dragon, one of my Laneway highlights.
Mary ‘Mazza’ Di Matteo
Editor In Chief