He began the show by saying “Thank you for not forgetting about me” and if Jens Lekman’s songs had somewhat slipped our mind at the start of this show, they were firmly re-ensconsed by the end.
Before Lekman arrived onstage there was the odd quasi-performance art of The Blow, in the form of Mikhaela Maricich, who, it emerged, has been active for the best part of ten years without impinging on my consciousness even for a second and, maybe more surprisingly, without packing it in. She was awful – passable tinny solo electro-pop interspersed with stupendously indulgent and endless monologues about – well, nothing. Watching the show I thought – I bet Pitchfork love this. (They do.) In dismissing her work so summarily I do run the risk of dismissing the new decade’s Patti Smith but, well, who actually listens to Patti Smith for pleasure?
Lekman on the other hand was masterful, showing a side to himself that I suspect one only sees live. His reputation based on Night Falls on Kortedala and its predecessors is that of a melodic ironist with a gift for narrative but whose songs often appear slight or whimsical. He gets bracketed a lot with Stephin Merritt and it is hard to know which of them would win an archness competition. But like Merritt, the whimsy gets swept aside with a blast of unvarnished emotion every now and then.
At this show, open melancholy was to be expected in the likes of ‘Black Cab’, so delicate and desolate and resigned (‘Oh you’re so silent Jens / Well maybe I am, maybe I am’). But the dominant emotion in the room was joy. There was the obvious pleasure Lekman took in leading the coalescence of his band on all the stompers, like ‘The End of the World is Bigger than Love”; at times, I was reminded of a much less serious Kevin Rowland. There was the cheerful chat with the audience including stories that one could actually follow (take note, The Blow) and promises to go out dancing (did anyone take him up on this?) And there was the moment at the end when he played ‘Pocketful of Money’, a relatively trivial song, by himself, and transformed it into a call-and-response communion with the crowd: the line “I’ll keep running with my heart on fire” being batted back and forth like a clay court rally. Startling.
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