Swedish singing sensation Jens Lekman brought his brand of disco-folk pop to the Echo last Wednesday for what would be the first of two completely sold-out shows there.
Accompanied by a quartet of groovy guys and gals wearing key-shaped necklaces to match his own, Lekman turned in a smile-worthy set that culled greatly from his 2007 smile-worthy release, Night Falls Over Kortedala.
With a line of hopeful, would-be patrons lining the sidewalk outside, Lekman faced no resistance from the crowd from the moment he took the stage to the time he left it, thoroughly showered by love from those gathered for his performance. It’s tempting to state that Lekman had concert-goers eating from the palm of his hand, but that would imply something nefarious and manipulative about him. In truth, Lekman — who purportedly didn’t experience his first kiss until age 19 — radiates a certain choir boy-ish innocence, the effect of which makes it difficult to imagine him engaged in anything remotely opportunistic or adult in nature. To that end, attending a Lekman show is somewhat akin to being present at a tea party, the guests of which are furry woodland creatures, drinking sunshine and eating cake baked from hope and rainbows.
This isn’t to say Lekman’s work reeks of naiveté – given time to digest, listeners are sure to discover dark undertones within. All told, Lekman’s music is a blend of Abba-like orchestrated pop buttressed by a singer-songwriter’s keen observation and accomplished wit, yielding a highly relatable running commentary on the engagements and yearnings of the human soul.
On this occasion, his music benefited greatly from the presence of his female musicians; his violinist tackled many of the horn melodies from his records, breathing new life into already splendid parts, while his other female foil kept things kinetic with endless contributions of wicked, wicked bass.
Numbers such as “Sipping on Sweet Nectar” and “I’m Leaving Because I Don’t Love You” were executed beyond expectations, but paled when stacked up against the obvious crowd favorites “The Opposite Of Hallelujah” and “A Postcard To Nina.” “Nina” in particular – a song about Lekman’s lesbian friend presenting him as her fiancé at a family dinner — touched off something in the crowd, perhaps due to the wake of the Proposition 8 rally the night before. Lekman made a meal out the tune, adding a spoken word monologue amidst the verses and choruses that provided (often hilarious) context to incident which inspired the song’s creation.
“Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig” was another number made notable after Lekman invited the crowd to sing backing vocals for him. Though such crowd participation typically peters out after a few bars, Echo patrons admirably worked their task for several minutes (and sounded pretty good doing it, perhaps owing to the fact that probably three out of every five people in the room play in an east side band or two).
Lekman closed the set playing solo, with a rare-ish performance of “Silvia” from his 2004 full-length debut, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog. He described the song as based on an experience he had in his youth, meeting the queen of Sweden and shaking her hand. “I thought we had a deal,” he said of their encounter. Later committing the song to record, his mother informed him that he had never actually met Silvia, and must have dreamt the whole thing. Lekman told the chuckling audience that it seemed real to him, so what was the difference – then proceeded to play the song kneeling down, “as you do before royalty,” he said.
Then as only he could, Lekman politely apologized for ending the show, citing a strained voice. He promised after resting for a few moments that he would return from his dressing room and chat with the crowd and maybe do some more songs. Whether or not he actually was going to didn’t matter at that point –after providing Echo patrons with a fantastical dream of their own – what was the difference?