by Thomas Collins
Jens Lekman won a lot of fans at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday October 9 when he shouted out the Flatbush Avenue Target. The older, balding crowd responded to the domesticity with a positive slight swaying to the side. This was a good reflection Lekman’s noticeable restraint: no matter the tempo of the song, he never really broke out any dance moves besides a subtle moving of his knees forward and back. Restraint, though, might just be Lekman’s trademark.
As I walked into the Hall, I was hit by the sweet folk of “Waiting for Kirsten,” Jens’ story of having too much to drink while waiting for Kirsten Dunst outside of her hotel. The scraggly crowd sang-along loudly to the soaring chorus: “In Gothenberg we don’t have VIP lines!” As the song was coming to a close, Jens walked to the front of the stage, and he started playing with some dials on a mixer. I didn’t expect the lovesick folk singer to be a DJ, but he skillfully faded between “Kirsten” and “Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig.” The big drums and bass blew the crowd away. When the ooh-ahh-ahh’s of “Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig” entered the mix, the crowd was suddenly transported back to a way better version of the 1950’s.
After these songs, the set became markedly quieter, with Lekman for the most part playing solo on a small guitar, with light backing from a drummer with an impressive beard. He sang “Black Cab,” mournfully remembering, “I missed the last tram. I killed the party again.” The ever-present melancholic tone never dipped into self-pity, however. He sang of being “done with love” and of how he would never “kiss anyone who doesn’t burn me like the sun.” The restrained, or repressed, themes of the songs like “And I Remember Every Kiss,” to made Lekman all the more romantic.
While Jens is a master of quiet, acoustic guitar, the louder, string-based songs like “Your Arms Around Me” and “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar” left much to be desired. On record, these songs are huge, punchy anthems, but live, the stale pre-recorded tracks don’t do justice to Jens’ emotional voice. If he would have had a full orchestra, I can’t imagine a better concert experience, but I’m assuming that wasn’t possible due to the fact that Lekman is on Service Records, not Sony.
He closed out the show, after coming back for his third encore to overwhelming applause, with the spare, crowd favorite “Pocketful of Money.” As he strummed lightly on his awkwardly undersized guitar, he instructed the balcony to sing, “I’ll come running with a heart on fire,” while he had the floor respond, “You set my heart on fire.” The hushed, choral singing of the fully packed crowd was the perfect way to end the show; live, Lekman is best at charging emotion into simple, light melodies.
Thomas Collins is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org