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Live Review and Photos: Jens Lekman, September 28, 2011, Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Los Angeles, CA

Photos by Philip Cosores

I think, in many ways, Jens Lekman is the kind of person we all want to be. He’s mild-mannered yet honest, he’s gentle yet strong-willed, he speaks his mind but he’s never aggressive. In fact the only evidence of him ever becoming confrontational is with himself on his new EP. Hence, Lekman should be the ideal host for any kind of event, and when that event is a performance from the man himself, then there are not many more charming occasions that I can imagine having the opportunity to attend.

Preceding Lekman’s arrival to the stage was Geoffrey O’Connor, a lone singer-songwriter who has flown in from Australia to tour with Lekman. Upon hearing O’Connor speak between songs, and speak-sing during his songs, it’s immediately apparent why he would be paired up with Lekman. While O’Connor’s singing and musical abilities leave a little to be desired (especially if we’re comparing him to Jens Lekman), his presence is worthwhile just to hear his endearing dithering words about love and other aspects of life and how it is being an Australian in LA. O’Connor started out the set mostly encased in a corner of the stage by his sampler that ran his backing tracks and sang along, but as his set progressed and he became more confident and started to prowl the stage, sometimes leaning against the back wall or coming right up close to the audience. Something about the way he moved, combined with how he was dressed (casual button up shirt) reminded me of Jarvis Cocker. If only he can infuse this influence more into his songs he might be a success.

Upon arriving on the stage Jens admitted to the crowd that he was feeling fantastic, a bad sign apparently, since usually on the first night of the tour he feels terrible but ends up playing a brilliant show, so this time the opposite might be true. This notion was disproven from the opening line of the first song (a new song marked on the setlist simply as “Description”) “I am a 42-year-old woman.” We knew we were in for a treat.

Jens got a couple of songs from his new EP, An Argument With Myself, out of the way next. The title track brought a few titters from the audience in the break-down spoken word section, but full-on laughs could not be stifled as the sprightly Swede told us how his failed attempt to stalk Kirsten Dunst in his hometown of Gothenburg inspired the song “Waiting For Kirsten.” While those songs are all great fun, they don’t allow for much of a singalong. This was remedied when Lekman played the back to back fan favourites “I Saw Her At The Anti-War Demonstration” and “A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill,” with the crowd getting particularly motivated to fill in the “bom-ba-bom”s in the chorus of the latter.

Considering how grandiose the majority of his songs are, you might expect Jens to have a full band with brass and all, but his only accompaniment was just a drummer. Now, “just a drummer” is harsh because the drummer in question, Addison, may have had a simple task but he did it well and was particularly effective on backing vocals. But, it didn’t really matter that Jens didn’t have a big band because his vocal range and richness accompanied by his accomplished finger picking on guitar filled in all the ranges we needed to hear. This was particularly emphasised on slow burner “Black Cab,” which spellbound the room and led Jens to admit at its conclusion “that is possibly the most beautiful version of that song I’ve ever played,” which nobody in the crowd would have had trouble agreeing with in that moment.

Lekman also took time to play a handful of new songs, which can often be a drag, but when you have someone with this kind of lyrical prowess a lack of familiarity with the songs is not a problem whatsoever. “Every Little Hair” and “Cowboy Boots” were particularly powerful, and it seems Lekman is going to go down a more deeply honest route with his new material judging from these affecting numbers.

The set ended in triumphant form with Jens amping things up by bringing in his 404 to play some backing tracks for some of his bigger songs. The main-set concluding “The Opposite Of Hallelujah” got everyone dancing, and the advantage of backing tracks over live bands was shown when the song suddenly cut into “Give Me Just A Little More Time” by Chairmen of the Board, which prompted a full-on club-like atmosphere with a few women getting up on the stage to dance with Jens. (As an aside: I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to listen to one song without hearing the other anymore, the similarities are quite evident when you’ve heard this mix.)

It seems Jens has a penchant for old school one-hit wonders currently, since he kicked off the encore with an acoustic cover of Ten City’s “That’s The Way Love Is,” delivering what would be an ironic song in most people’s eyes in his most earnest tones. The dance atmosphere returned for “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar,” before the final couplet of the aforementioned “Every Little Hair” and a beautifully simple acoustic performance of “I Remember Every Kiss.”

At the end of the performance Lekman proclaimed “You can bury me now,” joking about the fact that the performance was in a cemetery. There was an element of truth in the joke though; it was a sign of how much effort he’d put into the performance, and while the whole of Jens would not stay in the cemetery, he certainly left his mark there and a fond impression on everybody in attendance.

Jens Lekman setlist:

An Argument With Myself
Waiting For Kirsten
I Saw Her In The Anti-War Demonstration
A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill
I Broke Up A Fight
The End of the World is Bigger Than Love
Cowboy Boots
Black Cab
Golden Key
The Opposite Of Hallelujah

That’s the Way Love Is (Ten City cover)
Sipping On The Sweet Nectar

Every Little Hair
And I Remember Every Kiss

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