Thursday, September 20, 2012


Tonight’s gig – the 499th of Jens Lekman’s career, if he is to be believed – starts with the instrumental prelude of ‘Every Little Hair Knows Your Name’ and finishes with the full song, as does this year’s album "I Know What Love Isn’t". But tonight’s show is more than an album play-back. Although the first half of the ninety minute set draws heavily from the globe-trotting Swede’s current long-player, it never feels as maudlin or introspective as that record can. And increasingly the set played by the four-piece backing band – violin and keyboards stage left, bass stage right and drums centre behind Gothenburg’s most famous retired bingo hall employee - blends older material around the new songs to increase the familiarity but also soulful geniality and witty theatrics. The segue of ‘The Golden Key’ (“about my failed jewellery career”) into ‘The Opposite of Hallelujah’ complete with Chairman Of The Board samples, choreographed hand movements and playing invisible chimes is seamless, clever and draws a gasp – literally – from the crowd. Or for a lengthy spoken word preface to ‘A Postcard To Nina’, as well as raconteur Jens acts as band leader counting the band out instrument by instrument before they – again seamlessly – reunite for the opening of the song proper. During ‘Sipping On The Sweet Nectar’ he halts the song, staring at the ceiling for an achingly long silent pause, before it re-starts. Little moments of drama but they add so much to the songs. And like the way the band are dressed – you don’t at first notice that they are all dressed in black with matching white plimsolls – there is a clever, casual organisation to what is happening on stage that is never overtly controlling or regimented just subtly applied and allowed to take shape naturally.

And although there was something joyful on-stage dancing for the tropicalia of ‘An Argument With Myself’, well-cheered old classics (‘Black Cab’ and ‘Maples Leaves’) and even some arms-held-wide aeroplane moves from Mr Lekman, there was also hair-tingling quiet and poignancy – an acutely hushed ‘I Want A Pair Of Cowboy Boots’ played with the lights down and then the final encore. If new album ‘I Know What Love Isn’t’ wears its heartbreak a little too heavily and continuously, here it felt as though Jens is putting it behind him and can dip in judiciously rather than wallow.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Jens Lekman live. He never fails to impress. And no-one can segue two songs together live better than he can. Yes I’ve seen some of the tricks with samples and theatrics before so it lacked that element of surprise. Yes there was no secret set afterwards (or if there was I wasn’t invited). Yes I’ve heard that tale about stalking Kirsten Dunst in Gothenburg before, and not just once. But none of that mattered or took away from how engaging, charming, and witty the man and his lovelorn songs are. He described the making of the new record – a long five years – as a circle. Like tonight’s gig he said, as he introduced that final encore of the vocal version of ‘Every Little Hair Knows Your Name’: “starting as we began... another circle”. And what a perfect circle it was.

The Set List

Every Little Hair Knows Your Name
Becoming Someone Else’s
I Know What Love Isn't
The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love
Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder
The Golden Key
The Opposite Of Hallelujah
Waiting For Kirsten
Black Cab
I Want A Pair Of Cowboy Boots
The World Moves On
Maple Leaves
That's The Way Love Is
Sipping On The Sweet Nectar
An Argument With Myself
A Postcard To Nina
Every Little Hair Knows Your Name


Anonymous said...

brilliant show - a true storyteller in the vain of jonathan richman, with a small-town, nostalgic catalogue to match that of the go-betweens

mondal said...

Great performance and music.

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