Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jens Lekman @ The Logan Square Auditorium

I can’t remember what I thought the very first time I heard Jens Lekman’s music. I do know that soon after, I caught his set at the Pitchfork Music festival. I’m now fairly certain that it enabled full appreciation of his songs, and the likely reason I became such a fan. Lekman’s music is often cheeky or unabashedly syrupy. Those are rarely qualities that appeal to me, but somehow, he’s excepted. To the good fortune of all in attendance on a gusty Monday evening, every one of his tunes is better in person.

Jens began by saying, “Tonight feels special. So please don’t film the show. Let’s just let this be for us.” This is probably the best way to ask for this, and the crowd responded with blank stares. Silence means consent, I guess. We can check Youtube later to see if anyone violated the honor code, though it appeared all were good little soldiers and just enjoying themselves.Minor technical difficulties hamstrung the first song, but things got rolling from there. Jens has a hilarious deadpan he delivers in a delightful way, telling stories of where certain songs came from and interesting details about living in Sweden. A show where he just talks about stuff even if there was no music would still be worthwhile. When two local brass players joined in, Jens declared “We just found these two guys on the street.” The height of banter came during the extended intro to “A Postcard to Nina.”

Of course the music is fun as hell in its own right. His voice is far better live than on the albums. Like all great acts, he is somehow more emotive and personal. With the entire band alternating between smiling and grinning, the audience couldn’t help but reflect the same expression. Transitions in songs featured group boy-band dance moves worthy of Chica-go-go. Within songs, Jens was unafraid of going off-script to break things down or mix things up or extend the endings.Always gracious, Jens came across like an old friend who’s happy to see you. The crowd responded in kind. In his final song, “Friday Night at the Drive-in Bingo,” he ended his last note with a happy giggle, which kind of sums up the evening perfectly. The show could have been a bit longer, and I would have loved to hear “Pocket Full of Money” and “Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig”, but those are minor complaints. I’d go see Jens again no matter where or when he’s playing.

I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You
The Opposite of Hallelujah
Black Cab
It Was a Strange Time in My Life
You Put Your Arms Around Me
New Directions (new song)
You Are the Light
A Postcard to Nina
Maple Leaves
Sipping On the Sweet Nectar
A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill
Friday Night at the Drive-in Bingo

In case you want to know more, Jens played an acoustic show in Istanbul on Valentine’s Day, and has it up on his website. Check it out here.

The first opener, Marla Hansen played poppy folky music, somewhat reminiscent of Andrew Bird. She sang while playing pizzicato violin to back her up. The second act, The Honeydrips, gave a unique “performance.” The band consisted of one dude who hit play on his I-mac, and sang along at times. He told jokes like, “We’re the Honeydrips,” and held Lekman’s guitar merely as a prop. He looked to be suffering from PTSD. I couldn’t tell if he was insulting us or not. Some of the crowd was getting into it, dancing and clapping along, but it was the most vacant performance I’ve ever seen. He basically looked like this the entire time:

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