The charm of Swedish electropop outfit Little Dragon lies in their devotion to tripped out electronic journeys as well as the disarmingly engaging voice of singer Yukimi Nagano, and as fantastic live performers, their shows can at times be transcendent experiences. Elegant, refined but by no means lacking bite, the fiery four piece are tailor made for well-stepped dancefloors, and on paper should have been perfect in the dance music factory that is Canal Mills. Inhibited somewhat by a slightly imbalanced sound setup, however, their brilliance was dimmed as Nagano battled with the weighty synths for centre stage in their outing for Beacons Metro last week.
It is, of course, testament to the band that despite technical issues with levels, their set was still unquestionably good fun, the excited energy of their performance shining through in the dense synth tones and Nagano’s unflinching immersion in the bumpy sonic soundscapes created by her accomplices. Floating around the stage like a contemporary dancer alone with headphones in an empty studio, her presence on stage is huge, emblematic of an artist at complete peace with her surroundings.
Effortless in her delivery, Nagano’s vocals are impressively powerful, and at points breathtaking when given the space to cut through the rest of the band’s offerings, though those moments were rarer than they should have been. Hooks like the floor shaking “Strobe Lights” and “Little Man” had the crowd helping out, swathes of loyal followers lending their voices to the effort in the boomy warehouse, but it was the more sedate jams like “High” or the immaculate closer “Twice” that left the lasting impressions, with the more minimal instrumentation offering the head room for the strikingly adorned singer to captivate the crowd with her words as well as the artfully constructed outfit that she used to trace patterned trails through the striking stage lights. Never lacking attention to detail, the band have made an unmatched aesthetic part of their identity, and that is something that will impress any audience even when the sound does not quite match the standards that they would hope to hit.
Live audio engineering is, of course, a tricky art in itself, and particularly in a space as large as Canal Mills, but on this occasion the balance wasn’t quite right. An exhilarating watch nonetheless, Little Dragon are exactly the kind of booking that both Canal Mills and Beacons Metro should be lauded for making.
Photo courtesy of Canal Mills
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