Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jens Lekman went to Brooklyn. I may have stalked him a little bit.

Jens Lekman live at The Green Building. All photos by Colleen Hale-Hodgson.
But only a little. To be clear, the desire to visit New York City was already there, I just needed a really good reason, and then I got this innocuous little e-mail:
Hi everyone,

I had some stuff to do in New York this winter so I figured I might as well do a small solo show while I'm theresince it's been so long.
It will be special and maybe we can have one of those houseparties afterwards, like we had last time?
If my friends neighbors are cool with that, I'll let you know.
Lekman plays the underused air xylophone while
holding the tambourine that touched my heart. 
I don't even remember signing up for Jens Lekman's mailing list, but I'm pretty glad past-Colleen did, because this sounded like a really cool show. I didn't act right away, so when I finally did look to see if I could buy a ticket I really shouldn't have been so surprised that the concert on Dec. 10 was completely sold out, and that scalpers were asking for upwards of $70 (original price: $17) for tickets on craigslist.com. I had just finished promising myself that I would be more spontaneous next time when yet another e-mail from Lekman' camp popped up with a promise of another show on Dec. 9. Message received, Universe.

Building an entire vacation around seeing one Swedish orchestral pop prince in Brooklyn on a cold winter night may sound crazy to some people, but with a year-long exile in South Korea looming, I saw an opportunity to appease my inner hipster's need for amazing concert experiences, and see if NYC was as great as I remember it being all at the same time.

Lekman's music is in turns irreverent and sarcastic, honest and disarming. He sings with a silky baritone, recalling romantic crooners of eras past. Most of his recorded material is lushly produced with brass, choral backing, and swooning crescendos of strings and samples. Lekman's show at The Green Building was a stripped down affair, with Lekman playing an acoustic guitar and some sparse drum accompaniment. He still managed to captivate the relatively small 400-person audience through a mix of natural charisma and humorous prattle. Earlier that week during a show in LA he premiered a new song he wrote about the night he tried to meet Spiderman actress Kirsten Dunst in his hometown of Gothenburg. He played that again, and it's about as funny as you would think something about stalking Kirsten Dunst would be.

There were other new songs, which fuels my hope for a new album sometime in the new year. Old favourites were also brought out ("Black Cab" and "Kanske är jag kär i dig" were particular highlights for me). About two-thirds of the way through the show some backing samples were added in and the night got more danceable. Lekman broke out the tambourine, which he soon handed off to one very lucky audience member (ok, it was me. I almost died from giddiness.). With the weight of keeping beat for the rest of the show resting on my shoulders, I can't really say I remember it very well. There was some dancing, choreographed airplane arms, and two encores (which I think my tambourine-led chorus of hand-claps had a lot to do with), and then it was over - but not before Lekman promised that after the show he would sing into the ear of anyone who had a special request. With that tantalizing thought in mind, I stuck around for a bit for the crowd to clear, and was not disappointed when Lekman came out and started chatting with the stragglers.

I won't bore you with a detailed recounting of the whole encounter, but I will say that I did get a song (the last verse of "A Postcard To Nina") and a very apt message with his signature. Ten points to whoever can tell me what song this comes from:

So, was it worth travelling to NYC all by myself with no local contacts or knowledge of how to work the subway system? Yes. Of course, the Lekman show was not the only thing I did that weekend, but I think it was special enough to make the trip worthwhile even if the rest of the trip was filled with long lines at Macy's and rude cab drivers (I didn't do any shopping and one car service driver said I was pretty enough to be a model!).

For a more detailed review of the show,  plus a bunch of pictures (you may even spy yours truly if you squint a bit), head over to BrooklynVegan.com.

1 comment:

Mandy Juno said...

That line is from The Wrong hands!