Little Dragon show great promise in Allston

A review of Little Dragon at the Brighton Music Hall on January 20

, Staff Writer

Little Dragon is one of those deceptive bands: their studio works are nothing spectacular – standard-fare synthpop with a heavier 80’s sound than most. When you see them live, though, those same tracks become exceptional. The crowd livens up, the lights start to flash, and the band just knows how to occupy a stage. When the band came through last Thursday, selling out the brand new Brighton Music Hall (which occupies the same space formerly known as Harpers Ferry), the story was no different. In a shorter set that admittedly wasn’t without a few low points, the Swedish ensemble turned the venue into an energetic, raucous dance party for their devoted following.

Lead singer Yukimi Nagano, decked out in a lavish floor-length dress, was in fine form. Her vocals soared throughout the evening, injecting a passionate energy into every song. When not singing, she danced and worked the crowd with every move, which in turn kept crowd engaged. Things were a little less dance-y to start, though. The band settled into their set with “Never Never”, a crowd favorite, but not one that particularly got anyone moving. It’s a sparse piece that let Nagano work her vocals more than anything else, singing against a persistent drum beat and simple bass/synth lines.

Things started to pick up when the band dropped into “After The Rain”, off their eponymous 2007 album. With a hard downbeat and less 80’s affectation (it was almost jazz-y at times), the crowd seemed to really pick up on Little Dragon’s energy. “Blinking Pigs” started the dance party in earnest as Fredrik Wallin laid down a great synth solo. After, the set settled down for a song or two as the band played some newer material (a new album is due this spring). “Looking Glass” brought things right back up, though, with a song that was about as close to genuine 80’ss cocaine music as you can muster.

Though they generally do a good job of shying away from a particular genre, it can’t be denied that the band, at least with their second album, really embraced that deep, synthesized 80s sound. The semi-debut of “Summer Tearz” indicated a continuation in that direction, though the band worked a good deal of house influence into the tune, as well. “Tearz” was arguably the best song of the evening: though it didn’t start out so hot, the band stretched it past the seven-minute mark, letting the audience really settle into the groove. The drumming was sharp (I would have believed them to be electronic had the kit not been right there) and tight, and by the end of the song everyone was contentedly exhausted from all the dancing.

Listening to Little Dragon through headphones doesn’t do them adequate justice. This is a band that is meant to be seen live, undoubtedly. There isn’t too much going on, in terms of interesting production or mind-blowing improvisation, but they can put together a beat like no other. Nagano’s unique and sexy stage presence keeps things interesting, even during the show’s low points. With new album on the way and already phenomenal live show, Little Dragon are poised to make big waves in 2011.

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