Jens Lekman may be trying to steal my boyfriend. As we strolled down the moist, chilly blocks from Lekman’s Black Cat performance last night, all my date could talk about was how sweet and charming Jens was, his lovely voice, and general awesomeness. Not that the Swedish indie pop signer’s charms were lost on me, mind you. There is good reason that, in their review of his most recent record, Night Falls Over Kortedala, Pitchfork praised his “boyfriendable baritone” and why few writers even try to avoid mentioning his dreamy smile. At his best, Lekman leans his head back and beams like Snoopy doing his happy dance and gives off an air of clever contentment.
On his records, Lekman relies heavily on an effective and sophisticated use of samples to back his sweet and witty lyrics with layers of strings, horns, and piano, drawing heavily from disco and Motown sounds (both vintage and current). From this, I had expected a live performance more akin to Atom & His Package or any of the dude-accompanying-a-laptop shows I have seen lately. Instead, a band of seven impressive multi-instrumentalists dressed in matching white outfits plays much of it live, along with Lekman himself playing guitar and occasional keyboard. The six young women played various combinations of drums, bass, timpani, saxophone, trumpet, and triangle, among other things, over the course of the night, along with a male dj/sample triggerer/laptop guy. During a particularly cheerful moment, they all put down their gear and performed a minute-long airplane dance during a long, bouncy sample.
For all the infrastructure Lekman brought to the stage, and all the energy and enthusiasm that went into the big, danceable, production-number tracks, he is at least as compelling when things quiet down. For songs like the aching “The Cold Swedish Winter” or poignant “Shirin” (about an Iraqi refugee hairdresser), Jens was left alone on the stage, with only his guitar to accompany him. For his final song, he employed an agreeable audience for finger-snapping percussion and backing vocals, something he would sweetly call “The most beautiful version of that song I have ever heard.”
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs