By Cam LindsayThe 1,100 capacity Phoenix Concert Theatre was a bit oversized for Jens Lekman and Taken By Trees, but as any fan of quaint Swedish indie pop and the Secretly Canadian label knew, those who came were in for something special.
A shy Victoria Bergsman walked on stage to a half-full club with her backing band, as the striking 1970 romance, A Swedish Love Story, was projected onto a screen. Decked in a twinkling gown, the Swedish chanteuse's warm cooing was met with reverbing bass riffs and swoony slide guitar on new cuts like the dizzying "In Other Words" and the slow-mo sway of "Only You."
Just two days after the release of her third Taken By Trees album, the tropically dubbed-out Other Worlds, she was democratic in covering all three albums in her 30-minute slot. A nice treat was hearing a simpler rendition of "Watch the Waves," a Panda Bear-less "Anna" and her first single "Lost and Found." Closing with her hypnotic, recent single "Dreams," Bergsman and company left a delicate but lasting impression.
You could probably guess that Jens Lekman is a natural-born entertainer. "Can I have some more of my beautiful voice?" he asked the sound guy about the PA, quickly setting the tone for a wildly charming and often amusing 70-minute set. A master banterer, the Gothenburg native showered the audience with witty anecdotes in between songs as colourful as his lyrics.
He preceded "I Know What Love Isn't" by explaining how he put the kibosh on a plan to marry an Australian friend to stay in the country merely because the illegality would prohibit him from telling the story. And detailed how he, a "potato chip factory boy," stalked Kirsten Dunst yet didn't end up meeting her, but instead found inspiration to write "Waiting for Kirsten."
Lekman's latest album, the month-old I Know What Love Isn't, filled up half of the night, but it was hard not to still be rapt in past favourites. "The Opposite of Hallelujah" is arguably his finest song to date, earning an ecstatic reaction that only intensified when he hit the sampler and blared the Chairmen's "Give Me Just a Little More Time" through the speakers. He then asked the crowd if they wanted to do some dancing before launching into the shuffling groove of "Maple Leaves" and "Into Eternity."
But it was the masterful storytelling of "A Postcard to Nina" from Night Falls Over Kortedala that stole the show. Lowering the mic to perform on one knee, he waxed about the sticky situation his pal Nina put him in, played air xylophone and left everyone ready for a second encore. He came back solo and said goodnight with the new album's soft closer, "Every Little Hair Knows Your Name," book-ending the show with both versions of the song.
Few performers have his charisma, and for Lekman, performing seems like such an effortless vocation. On this night, he put on a show that no fan will forget, making the remaining couple hundred who could have filled the place kick themselves when word reached social networks seconds after the house lights went on.