Little Dragon launches tour to promote new album

Season High album by Little DragonLittle Dragon performed last night in Toronto. The concert at the Danforth Music Hall came at the front end of their tour to promote the new album Season High. The band gave a solid performance, with a healthy dose of new songs as well as highlights from previous albums. Some bands focus more on new music when touring, but Little Dragon wisely chose a balance of the new and the familiar. The band performed popular songs such as “Twice,” “Pretty Girls,” “Crystalfilm,” “Ritual Union,” and “Klapp Klapp”—plenty to satisfy fans of past albums. The surprise of the evening, and the emotional climax for me, was an extended version of “Strobe Light” from the new album. In its live incarnation, it exceeded the power of the recorded version. Amazing visuals augmented the music.

Yukimi wore a gauzy shroud that glowed neon orange in the black light. Whether holding Noh poses or swirling across the stage, she looked like a ghostly spirit from a Japanese horror tale. The atmosphere perfectly supported the eerie lyrics: “pearly whites in the dark, throw a witch into a fire.” I always look for a moment of transcendence in a concert, where you feel transported beyond the music to somewhere sublime. This portion of the concert provided that feeling.

Electronic concerts tend to have a problem with the sound mix, and this problem was evident last night. The combination of vibrations from synthesized bass frequencies and lights flashing from the back of the stage overwhelmed the senses at times. This is the new normal at dance clubs as well. The kick drum and bass lines occasionally overpowered Yukimi’s vocals and whatever was happening in the mid-range. Still, it was a vibrant performance.

Little Dragon and Sweden’s Musical Influence

Little Dragon has been making music since 1996, when they formed in Gothenburg, Sweden. However, it took eleven years until they recorded and released their first studio album, in 2007. Their ascent coincides with the dominance of Swedish musicians in the music industry. Songwriter Karl Martin Sandberg, known as Max Martin, has co-written numerous mega-hits for Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Backstreet Boys, Taylor Swift. and others. Swedish writers Andreas Carlsson, J├Ârgen Elofsson, and Per Magnusson also have long track records of hits.

According to Marie Ledin, the managing director of the Sweden’s Polar Music Prize, Swedish songwriters and producers were partly responsible for a quarter of all Billboard Top Ten hits in 2014. This is an astonishing accomplishment for a country with fewer than ten million people. (See the September 2015 New Yorker article.) It’s hard to say why the Swedes have become so influential, if mainly behind the scenes. Their openness to other cultures and love of American R&B and hip-hop probably play a role. Indeed, Little Dragon cites De La Soul as an early inspiration, and Janet Jackson slow jams influenced the album Nabuma Rubberband. In a nice full circle, De La Soul featured Little Dragon on last year’s tune “Drawn.” Little Dragon deserves to find an even bigger audience, and hopefully the new album and tour will facilitate that goal.

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