To help promote their fourth studio album Nabuma Rubberband, Little Dragon scheduled a stop in Salt Lake on a Wednesday at The Complex. I have been waiting patiently for this show, but butterflies still form in my stomach while getting ready. I know it will by popping with energy from all of the YouTube videos I have been ogling over the past months leading up to this night.
There is no line to wait in as my friend and I approach the venue. As we enter, we notice that the venue is about half-full, with more people steadily trickling into the building. The first band is Shy Girls, a band that I have never listened to. As they take the stage I notice the have a large L.E.D. strip behind them, which gives the feel of being inside a spaceship. The lead singer is in the middle of all of it, wearing a long sleeve white shirt and sporting some bedhead hair. He is surrounded by his bandmates on all sides. There are no guitars or drums present, just keyboards and a MacBook. The band has a ‘90s R&B feel, with some snippets of epic electro drums reminiscent of Phil Collins. Besides the guy bobbing his head behind the MacBook, the band shows little energy. Their songs sound like Drake songs, if he only sung hooks and never rapped. The only redeeming factor is that the guy behind the computer pulled out a tenor saxophone every once in awhile, which reminds me of the sexy sax man.
Between bands I have a chance to notice the crowd—pretty much everyone is between 20 and 30 years old. As far as I know, there is no trip-hop/neo-soul uniform that people wear, unlike punk, goth, metal and country. People here just seem to be dressed like slightly fashion-forward college age kids.
At around 9:15 p.m. my ears fill with electric ambiance and my eyes feast on white lights shaped like diamonds and blue underglow lighting up the equipment/drums. Keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand and drummer Erik Bodin take the stage first, building the anticipation. They let us simmer for a couple of minutes before singer Yukimi Nagano and bassist/keyboardist Fredrik Wallin take the stage. Then yellow lights flash, within seconds the band is fully formed and the energy of the crowd intensifies. They start off their set with the first song off their new album “Mirror,” which is a slower song that features plenty of peaks and valleys to keep it interesting. Nagano is wearing a black, boyfriend-fit sweater with a multi colored skirt, running shoes and a ponytail—an outfit I can honestly say would only look good on her.
As they perform “Killing Me,” Yukimi has a little jam session with Wirenstrand on his synthesizer. Her energy amazes me as I watch her non-stop dancing seemingly control the music with her movements. She holds a tambourine with a handle as she dances and waves it around with perfect timing. Nagano calls out to the sky and seemingly performs rituals as she dances around. The whole thing feels like a music video. She even goes as far as using the tambourine as a prop, holding it at both ends hopping around in a circle during a performance of “Test.”
“Only One” is my favorite song from Nabuma Rubberband. They end up playing it as the last song of their scheduled set which would have been a great ending for me, but Salt Lake seems to love encores. I can’t remember a concert that I have been to that hasn’t had one in recent years. Little Dragon plays three more songs, ending with the song “Twice” from their self-titled album.
Little Dragon loves to jam when they perform. You know that four minute song you love? They will play it for ten minutes. They will take you off on a tangent that feels like a whole new song and then slowly bring you back to reality. The band played for an hour-and-45 minutes and had the same intensity the entire time. You can tell that each band member loves every song they play and would most likely be jamming even if no one was watching. This was my first Little Dragon concert and I am almost certain it won’t be my last.