When I first heard "Black Cab" three years ago, its jingle-jangle opening hooked me and it became one of my most listened-to songs of the year. When I saw him play Spaceland for the first time that year I was charmed but I also found it a little too precious. He had a small backing band--drummer, bassist, plus himself--so it didn't quite capture the full pop twinkle of his songs. The next time he was at Spaceland he had more support and it gave the show an amazing but intimate energy. It looked at the time that Jens would remain a pop secret, but with the release of his newest album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, and its 9.0 rating from Pitchfork, Jens is soaring.
Last night's sold out show at the Troubadour was proof of Jens's growing popularity and he rewarded those on hand with a joyful, exuberant show. It helped that Jens has plenty of songs in his repertoire from which to put together an entertaining show, but the songs aren't enough if the spirit isn't there. Jens definitely has spirit. Backed by a talented all-girl band (trumpet, violins, accordion, bass, drums) and a stoically cute DJ, Jens and the band--clad in matching white outfits that looked like kitchen uniforms--put together a show that embodied the bliss that the best pop music can elicit.
The show opened with "Into Eternity," one of many standout tracks from Kortedala. Jens didn't stray too far from the album renditions and I think it's all for the better. Unlike some acts, one goes into a Jens Lekman show hoping to hear the pop perfection displayed in the albums. That was primarily why my first Lekman show was a little disappointing. He didn't capture the songs in all their glory. With the full band, though, the songs were all exquisitely done, even in the quieter moments, such as in the lovely and affecting "The Cold Swedish Winter" from When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog.
I don't exaggerate when I say that the show was perfection. It was everything I could look for in a concert. Lekman was charming in his banter, asking if the people watching him from behind a window in the loft of the Troubadour were contagious at one time. Even when he spoke in the middle "A Postcard to Nina", something that is quickly turning into a pet peeve of mine in a concert, it was delightful. Plus, it actually added to the song as it provided more of a backstory to the song's farcical tale of lesbian love and deception. The show was sublime.
The crowd egged Lekman to do two encores. The first encore featured Lekman's dance songs, "A Sweet Summer Night on Hammer Hill" and "Friday Night at the Drive In Bingo." When he was summoned back he performed an acoustic version of "You Can Call Me Al" except that he eliminated most of the chorus parts as he "hated it" and a sweet rendition of "Pocketful of Money" with the crowd backing him up on finger snaps and shakers handed out earlier in the evening by Throw Me the Statue.
So it goes without saying that I highly recommend checking Lekman out when he comes to your town.
Opening for Lekman was Throw Me the Statue, a terrific up-and-coming band. Their music is amazingly wide-ranging. Their opening set started with their slower tunes, lovely songs perfect for navel-gazing, but they quickly got the crowd moving with songs like "Lolita" and "About to Walk." I've only heard a handful of songs from them, but I like what I hear. I can hear in them a very thoughtful and tasteful blending of electro-pop and more traditional singer-songwriter stylings. Their album, Moonbeams, will be rereleased by Secretly Canadian early in 2008.