CONCERT REVIEW: Little Dragon At Union Transfer


Pelle.jpgBY PELLE GUNTHER Little Dragon are such a tease. They come into the room, bursting with 80’s synth pop-giggles, tossing their R&B hair, running their beautiful electronic textures down my cheek, and winking their incredibly gifted vocalist, before standing up and walking away into another room full of overused-effects, bland instrumentation and immature composition. After a night of walking miles through Philly (long story) and trying to convince the Union Transfer’s WILL CALL people that YES I AM ON THE GUEST LIST, DAMMIT (turns out I wasn’t, but that’s another long story), I was hoping to be blown off my feet or at least feel justified in having driven almost an hour to get here. But no such luck. After listening to the band play for a bit, I tried to understand how the place was as full as it was; but in retrospect I can only assume the room was filled with the same crowd who would show up for any bunch of kids who can play a riff on a synthesizer. Thankfully ?uestlove was DJing (turns out Little Dragon is, like, his favorite band of the moment or something) so I didn’t leave entirely disappointed, or early. Out of respect to what they did right, Little Dragon does have an intriguing knack for creating fascinating and well fitting synth textures in their songs, and their bite-sized, singer Yukimi Nagano has very, very lovely vocal chords (which have been featured on a number of albums including The Gorillaz Plastic Beach)—but her voice was constantly lost in the too much echo the sound man consistently used on her mic all night. Their new album Ritual Union definitely seems to present a much more mature band than their previous albums, and on a couple songs like “Crystalfilm” and the title track, they successfully pull off the dancy-synth R&B sound they seem to aspire to—but unfortunately their fatal flaw still lies in the songwriting, which tends to fall into very jam-oriented grooves, minus any open space but plus an excruciating amount of cowbell and synth drum abuse by Miss Nagano herself. My evening peaked as the band came on for their encore and brought out ?uestlove himself to lay down an incredibly satisfying groove on the drums with the rest of the band—after which Little Dragon ended the night with the ambient, dreamy “Twice.” Which was nice. If the quality of everything else played prior to was of comparable quality to the last two songs, I would have NO complaints. Little Dragon you are a disgusting tease, but nonetheless, I am keeping my eye on you. Hopefully you’ll grow enough to realize your potential.

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