Wearing a dress covered in purplish sequins, Yukimi Nagano was her own disco ball on Tuesday night. The lead singer of Little Dragon, the deeply able mimics from Gothenburg, Sweden, she was a grade-A shimmier onstage at Music Hall of Williamsburg. When the song called for slinkiness, she bent into undulating curves. When it demanded toughness, she adopted a no-guff-taking posture.
Mostly, though, Little Dragon’s songs demand fealty to style — many styles — and Ms. Nagano had a firm grip on this as well. A clever band, Little Dragon paints with careful brushstrokes: disco, soul, funk, post-punk, electro and more, all faithful to the original textures.
In other words: yes, there was cowbell, banged on here by the bassist Fredrik Wallin, and sometimes by Ms. Nagano. The taut and nimble drummer Erik Bodin is the band’s center of gravity, and the keyboardist Hakan Wirenstrand is convincing, whether driving the melody or adding background support.
For all this dexterity, though, Little Dragon has often felt a little chilly. Its self-titled 2007 debut had promise — part dark, part fractured — but its 2009 follow-up, “Machine Dreams,” was, in places, almost hopelessly twee. The songs were crisp, and sometimes cute, but had little weight.
Its third album, “Ritual Union” (Peacefrog), released last month, is a breakthrough in intensity if not mode. Ms. Nagano sings with more force and attitude, and the band plays with more authority and clarity. That extended to this show, which took even the band’s worst habits and made them appear meaningful.
This being, at heart, a skilled funk band meant that several times it went off on extended but precise vamps in the middle of songs, often leaving Ms. Nagano little to do but smile and shake a tambourine. In these moments the group could have passed for an old record being played over the loudspeaker.
Same goes for Ms. Nagano, who can sound like a sample. She sang Bjork-like vocals on “Never Never”; there were Abba-esque melodies on “Ritual Union”; and “Shuffle a Dream” recalled mid-1980s Minneapolis pop-R&B. At other times Liquid Liquid came to mind, or the Eurythmics, or maybe a late-’70s D.J. set by Afrika Bambaataa, jumbling together funk and electro.
At the encore Little Dragon tackled one more sound: early-’90s club pop, with eerily good covers of Crystal Waters’s “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” and Robin S.’s “Show Me Love.”
The fervent crowd had been dancing intensely for an hour at that point and insisted on a second encore, which the band obliged. As it was finally leaving the stage for good, the night’s D.J., Rich Medina, began playing “Hot Music,” the jumpy house music classic by Soho, letting people know that they didn’t have to go anywhere. Even though their disco ball had departed, a dedicated bunch stayed behind to keep the night alive.
A version of this review appeared in print on August 18, 2011, on page C5 of the New York edition with the headline: Shape Shifting Effortlessly in Brooklyn. – Source