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Little Dragon and April + VISTA’s Mesmerizing Finale at Royal Albert Hall, a Symphonic Celebration of Friendship and Musical Brilliance

Little Dragon and April + VISTA’s Mesmerizing Finale at Royal Albert Hall, a Symphonic Celebration of Friendship and Musical Brilliance

Little Dragon at The Royal Albert Hall
Little Dragon at The Royal Albert Hall
Little Dragon at The Royal Albert Hall
Little Dragon at The Royal Albert Hall
Little Dragon at The Royal Albert Hall +11
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Little Dragon at The Royal Albert Hall

Amidst the backdrop of the historic Royal Albert Hall, Little Dragon closed out their European tour last week in a stunning portrait of the power of collaboration. They were on the road with DC-based duo April + VISTA (see images here) for both the North American and European stint, an encore to their first joint tour together back in 2018. The two ethereally-electronic groups released a long-awaited EP together in September: the magnificent Slipping into Color. This work of art, alongside April + VISTA’s 2021 project Pit of My Dreams and Little Dragon’s newest release Slugs of Love, laid fertile musical ground for their dynamic finale performance in London. 

Following an epic opener from Manchester-based Porij, a recent Apple Music Up Next Artist band vibing to a high-energy blend of pop, synth-wave, and lofi sounds, April + VISTA took the stage. Within moments of their first song, it was clear that April George’s mesmerizing voice could fill up and haunt the entirety of Royal Albert Hall, which it did. The second half of the duo, bassist and producer Matt Vista, came through with experimental tones and deep bass that rose up and greeted April’s flowing melodies. April and Matt’s musicality moves beyond songwriting; they are so clearly composers. And we were witnessing electronic orchestration live. 

April + VISTA are homegrown from the DMV, old friends from pre-COVID basement gigs and the underground roots of their now international presence, who are so deserving of their recognition not only for their talent but also for their kindness. It was amazing to see them expand as artists and step back onstage after the pitfalls of the pandemic – Matt shared that they once thought they might “not ever perform again.” This London show was a “full circle day” for them; one well-deserved and undoubtedly resulting in a wave of new UK fans. (And the DC in me loved getting a bit of DCity energy in the world of London’s impressive, old-ass theatres..!)

Now, it might be hard for me to convey the level of adoration that I feel for Little Dragon. When I say they are my favorite band, I mean: they are my favorite band. Moving on. Per usual, the Swedish quartet made quite the entrance at Royal Albert Hall. Offstage, a glockenspiel tune and Yukimi Nagano’s voice lingered as bassist Fredrik Wallin, keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand, and drummer Erik Bodin took stage. As Slugs of Love’s intro track Amöban began, Yukimi emerged cloaked in drapings of sheer, neon fabric. A raw artist, this one. The group carried us straight into Disco Dangerous, a playful new track that invokes 1970s Donna Summer, before turning back towards After the Rain from their 2007 self-titled album. 

Little Dragon embodies a rare consistency: their music has spanned three decades and has cultivated a distinct sound, yet it never becomes repetitive or fails to be interesting. They danced the Royal Albert crowd through new album grooves Slugs in Love and Frisco, classics High and Wildfire, and more recent hits Are You Feeling Sad? and Lover Chanting. Yukimi took an extended moment of silence for those who are “no longer with us in the flesh” before performing Where You Belong, my favourite from the 2020 album New Me, Same Us. Little Dragon gives us music that touches your grief, says hello, holds it softly, and lets it go. 

However, like most things in life, the gig was not without imperfections. After their fourth song, Håkan’s main keyboard entirely stopped working. As tech support raced to find a solution on and offstage, Håkan attempted to continue the melodies on his upper synth. Sadly, the sound was noticeably shallower and we missed out on the full version of about four tunes. The keyboard kicked back in right after April + VISTA returned to the stage for Slumber, and the vibes came back even stronger. 

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The few selections from Slipping into Color were my favourite part of the show. I could see April + VISTA and Little Dragon’s performance styles rebounding off one another; it was like watching lessons April has learned from Yukimi, and lessons Yukimi has learned from April. Undoubtedly so, for the two bands spent a week living together and sculpting these sounds in their Gothenburg studio. Little Dragon seems to always be working to share access and opportunities for up-and-coming artists. This group walks the walk: their devotion to collaboration, eye for talent, and tangible support for other musicians is commendable and inspiring. 

So, what was so special about this performance at Royal Albert Hall? While the venue and evident long-standing fandom from the diverse crowd was striking, the most palpable energy was something else entirely: the artists’ chemistry and authentic friendship. You can tell that these are old friends, who love each other, and love what they’re doing. After Håkan’s keyboard fiasco, Erik came over to hug him and help the stress pass. Throughout the show, it felt like we were with them in their living room, rather than on a historic stage in front of thousands of people. While you can suppose 27 years together might do that, I find this dynamic another one of Little Dragon’s loveable rare consistencies. And I’ll take any chance I can get to bask in it.

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