Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Concert Review: Little Dragon at Orpheum, Ybor City

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 2:05 PM

A wise old dude once said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he will never be disappointed.” Unfortunately, I wasn't really paying heed to this particular adage while getting revved up for the Little Dragon show at the Orpheum  last Wednesday night. Maybe this sounds harsh, and even though I enjoyed the show, overall, I’ve always been paretial to 2009’s more funkadelic Machine Dreams and consequently, had this idea in my head of an upbeat, dance-fueling performance. But given the infinitely more chilled-out state of their latest LP, Nabuma Rubberband, it was something more akin to an hour-long vibe-out session with a lot of hushed cuts sprinkled all throughout the set.

Drummer Erik Bodin hit the stage first, clad in a black body suit of sorts covered in bright neon glow-in-the-dark flowers that elicited pumped up enthusiasm from the nearly full venue. Frontwoman Yukimi Nagano made her entrance soon enough, her slight form and street smart-meets-Bjork type attitude inducing an electric vibe from the offset as the electro quartet opened with “Mirror,” the mystical, windswept opening track off Nabuma Rubberband, then followed up with “Please Turn” from 2011’s Ritual Union. The energy started out nothing short of ecstatic. From my perch on the second floor, I scanned the floor, seeking an open space to squeeze into, but the crowd was one massive bobbing, swaying, occasionally fist-bumping ocean of fans.

The lull seemed to take over mid-way through the set, around the time they played another new cut, “Pretty Girls.” Nagano kept up her sweet dance moves and tambourine shaking all throughout the show (which was pretty impressive, I have to admit), but you could feel the slightest bit of energy start to drain from the room, and while Nagano's sultry honey-smooth voice is an instrument in itself, it was washed out in the wave of ambient sound that consumed the middle of the set. Thankfully, like a shot of caffeine straight into the veins, everyone's spirits perked up as soon as they launched into “Ritual Union,” the track that put them on the map after hitting No. 76 on the UK Singles Chart in 2011. After this came “Klapp Klapp,” which found Nagano repeating the line “I know you want it, don’t you?” while fearlessly pointing to various crowd members. Her vocals shone through again, the audience seemed please with the change of pace, and they left the stage after inducing a 2001 Space Odyssey–esque atmosphere with the track “Only One.” 

Needless to say, it didn’t take much time to pull Nagano back on stage for a three-track-long encore, which included my absolute favorite moment of the entire show: when the opening beat of “Runabout” off Machine Dreams crept into the mix, exactly what I had been hoping for all night. The performance of the song ushered in a strong celebratory feeling and reminded me why being in a crowded room of people who share the same enthusiasm for the same band is so rad. Hakan Wirenstrand (keys, mega impressive beard) joined Bodin on the drums for a minute-long duet mid-song, where Nagano humbly stepped to the side and introduced each band member. The grand finale came with a potently emotional delivery of the quartet’s very first single, “Twice,” released in 2006.

I left the show feeling like I had just read a supremely long run-on sentence that ended with an exclamation point. My faith was restored by the show's conclusion, leaving me as a born-again believer in the band. With all lulls and sporadic yawns aside, I remain convinced of this Swedish electro-pop group’s natural awesomeness.

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