Saturday’s sold-out Little Dragon show at the 9:30 Club was an exuberant, percussion-propelled, lush feast for the senses—a ritual union, if you will, presided over by the high priestess of unbridled soul, Yukimi Nagano.
The band and the crowd swelled with a riotous, jubilant energy that is so rare to see at most concerts. Yukimi Nagano literally bounded about the stage in her impossibly adorable, pixie-sprightly way, cutely bantering, dancing even more than the crowd, and contributing to the percussion-heavy sound with her tambourine and drum pad-playing.
One could hardly imagine a more unlikely candidate for a “jam band” than an electro-soul-downtempo outfit, yet Little Dragon’s show had a funky, beat-happy sensibility that was positively soul-stirring and authentically organic in its pure celebration of just playing for an audience. It’s through this dogged dedication to their live show that Little Dragon has built such a huge following, without a “big fancy record label,” as Nagano put it.
Nagano has lent her unique vocals to a number of tracks, including the Gorillaz’ “Empire Ants” and “To Binge,” SBTRKT’s “Wildfire,” and DJ Shadow’s new “Scale It Back.” From her old days in singing for downtempo-neo jazz band Koop (whose hit single “Waltz For Koop” appears on almost all chillout compilations), Nagano has a knack for infusing the songs with a soulful vibrato that keeps the ears guessing and sets her apart from other figure-head female vocalists—she is a musician in every sense of the word. She was definitely the epicenter of the show and she did it with an effortless and impossibly infectious flair.
Little Dragon played the ebullient title track “Ritual Union” off the new album, as well “Little Man,” and the dubsteppy-glitchy “Precious.” There were also tracks off their previous two releases including “Feather,” “My Step,” “Never Never,” and “After The Rain.” Interspersed with occasional jam sessions, the band stayed away from their more atmospheric, melancholic tunes and kept the tempo up and the dance sensibility more prominent. Only their final song “Twice” hinted at their more somber material, and Yukimi’s vocals took on an ethereal, almost other-worldly quality.
In a word, the show was the perfect embodiment of a band-crowd synergy that builds and truly doesn’t leave an unmoved soul or body in the crowd.