Sunday, January 13, 2008Happy New Year! I have been ironing out some website/server issues and now I'm all good to go for 2008, a 2008 which will see me returning to blogging glory. Yes. This one is about Jens Lekman.
I’d been waiting ages to see Jens Lekman. Ages and ages and ages. I should have seen him in May 2006 in Berlin, but was in Hamburg watching Belle and Sebastian on that evening. But luckily Gothenburg’s finest son pencilled in a handful of headline dates around his support tour for Josh Rouse (I know, who?) and one of those was at the beautiful Luminaire in Kilburn. It was well over two years since Jens Lekman last played in London and this gig had sold out in just two days. Anticipation filled the venue; the crowd were restless during the average support bands and groups of friends could be heard enthusing over what songs he might play.
Jens’ entrance to the stage was very understated. He simply came out from behind the curtain, head down, and began to tune his guitar and test his vocals out on the microphone. He was greeted with a few cheers, but the majority of the crowd stood still, transfixed, attentive. There was no clear transition between Roadie Jens and Singing Jens; the tuning became plucking, which became his first song. He didn’t seem nervous but he did not look once at the audience. As the last note of the song resonated the loudest imaginable screaming came from the crowd, as though they had made some pact to make the most possible noise. After a couple further reactions, bemusement and shyness wore off and Jens was visibly more relaxed and happy to be there.
The set comprised primarily of material from this year’s Night Falls Over Kortedala, but with plenty of songs from the previous two LPs. The gig was so memorable as a result of Jens’ ingenious delivery of the songs. In A Postcard to Nina Jens introduced the song by telling the beginning of the story, which then slowly merged into the first verse. Subsequent verses and choruses were broken up with spoken interludes giving further detail to the story. On Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill Jens had the whole room making the ‘bombabombabbomb’ sounds and whistling with gusto, recreating the spontaneous party atmosphere of the recorded version.
Performing as a two-piece with his friend Tammy (who mainly did percussion), Jens was unable to re-create the songs with as lush and rich musical textures as on his album. But with technological trickery, Jens gave it his best shot. He re-created the sound of backing singers in Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig by recording vocal loops and layering them. For Shirin he ‘ooohd’ softly a harmony to accompany his singing and guitar strumming. Apparently when he tours with his full band he is better placed to emulate the slightly extravagant, romantic, crooner style of his albums, but the ‘stripped down’ version was uniquely magical and intimate. I don’t think it would have been possible to foster the special vibe at this gig with a full band, as annoying as that might be for Jens. I hope when he returns next that he is able to do his compositions justice with a full band.
liz and i are going to see him tonight at lido. can't wait! and i hope he doesn't have his band along with him here in berlin either!