I have to give it to Jens Lekman, it takes a certain je ne sais quois to start your gig in a packed club of indiepop kids by playing a yodelly folk track, segueing into dancehall, and then playing about 3 or 4 more tracks on the console without singing a single note into the microphone while intermittently tossing glowsticks into the crowd. I can’t say I thought it was the best way to start off (dude, I didn’t stand in this sardine can for the past two hours in my pointy work heels just to hear you DJ) but hey, maybe that’s just the way he rolls.
I quickly forgave him when he finally started off his set with Black Cab, my favourite song on Oh You’re So Silent Jens, though it’s a pity the backing track was a little too loud and drowned out his singing. The next highlight of the gig for me was how enthusiastic the crowd was in singing along, most audibly to the chorus of I Saw Her In The Anti-War Demonstration, the “ba-ba-ba-ba” bits of A Sweet Summer Night On Hammer Hill, You Are The Light and the “I’ll come running with my heart on fire” bits of Pocketful Of Money, where he basically let the crowd take over and only needed to sing the backing vocals.
The last two highlights of the night for me were completely unexpected. A Postcard To Nina, which I wasn’t familiar with, is a hilarious account of a visit to Berlin to see his penpal Nina, before she moves to San Francisco with her girlfriend. She invites him to dinner (“great vegetarian German food”) at her parents’ house, only to inform him on the doorstep that she’s told them he’s her boyfriend. He delivers the next line to us with deadpan understatement: “And then it gets really awkward.” I can’t really do the rest of the song justice by describing it here, but a quick Google search suggests it’s a crowd favourite at lots of his gigs so perhaps a copy will surface online.
After finishing Pocketful Of Money, he wondered aloud what song he should sing next and someone shouted A Man Walks Into A Bar. Deliberately mishearing (I assume), he said “A man walks down the street?” and promptly launched into You Can Call Me Al! To the American-accented guys next to me who had the following conversation – “I’ve actually not heard this one before. Is it a cover?” “No, I don’t think so.” – I can only say I envy you for having escaped one of the most annoying songs of the 80s. But in that funny way that things go, I loved his cover, so here I am today digging out Graceland and listening to it again for the first time in a while.
By the end of the gig, Jens had a glowstick-waving, flower-strewn (during the gig he’d been throwing orange gerberas into the crowd) audience in the palm of his hand. He ended things off much like they began – a little strangely – by playing Scala’s cover of Heartbeats on the console, then leaving the stage to come meet the crowd. My track record of debilitating mortification from meeting people I admire suggested I shouldn’t attempt any communication with him, so I waited outside while Atarashi got his autograph, after which the least I could do to thank her for rocking so hard was to buy her prata.
- Black Cab
- I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You
- The Opposite Of Hallelujah
- I Saw Her In The Anti-War Demonstration
- A Sweet Summer Night On Hammer Hill
- You Are The Light
- Maple Leaves
- A Postcard To Nina
- Pocketful Of Money
- You Can Call Me Al