Sometimes, it’s hard to separate Little Dragon - the band - from Little Dragon - the feature on another artist’s track. For years, vocalist Yukimi Nagano has made the rounds with musical tastemakers like DJ Shadow, Gorillaz, and Big Boi to give their songs that extra flourish and indie cred. Though there are lots of sounds indebted to Nagano's standout voice, the Swedish band has garnered a lot of well-deserved recognition of their own. From their 2007 self-titled debut to their latest outing, the 80s-influenced Season High, they have toured the world and pushed the synth-R&B genre forward time and again. At their two-night stint at 9:30 Club, they once again proved their prowess in melding genres into a sound that's uniquely their own. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a charismatic singer like Nagano at the helm.
Her one-of-a-kind presence was as captivating as ever, as was her neon hat that brilliantly glowed in the blue light that rained down from above. It's obvious that Nagano is just as captivated by the music as the crowd was, most visible in her deliberate, yet instinctive dance moves during the slow-burning “Feather.” The band knows how to get people dancing, too - the extended, bass-rattling version of “Strobe Light” was a performance that might as well have taken place at an underground trance club in Berlin. There were other great little moments sprinkled throughout the night, like when Nagano joined drummer Erik Bodin on the drum kit for “Blinking Pigs” and later changed into an abstract outfit that included a red mesh dress enveloping her entire body. Although “Sweet” didn't reach its full potential in a live setting, the majority of the night filled the room with enough percussion and buzzy synths to do justice to the dancefloor-ready production of Season High and their earlier work. For that night, it was Nagano’s world, and everyone was lucky enough to be briefly living in it.
Opening for Little Dragon was Xavier Omar, an R&B singer who grew up in DC suburb Waldorf, MD. His songs are heartfelt and passionate, but he also showed his sense of humor by opening his set with a R&B’d-out version of the Pokemon theme song. Interestingly, his highly personal and sometimes hedonistic songs were punctuated by higher-energy prerecorded tracks like DMX's "Let Me Clear My Throat" and the Space Jam theme song. The excitement of his own songs don't yet match up to those classics, but he's still just getting started. His latest release is the single “Afraid” through Never Sleep Music.