Jens Lekman The Great Hall, Toronto ON, March 13
Published Mar 14, 2017"It's nice to be back in Toronto," said Jens Lekman as he first addressed the crowd.
The Swedish singer-songwriter has a history with the city, and calls it one of his favourite places in the world to visit. On one of his previous trips, he managed to pull off four gigs in one day, capping off the night in Trinity Bellwoods Park playing under a tree with his friend Owen Pallett. Lekman just has a way of making his fans feel like they're part of a special, intimate experience.
But it had been five years since we last saw him stroll through town, so he could sense new fans had come into the picture. "How many of you are at your first Jens Lekman concert?" he asked in the third person, a common trait of his. Hands went up, but even more went up when he asked if wasn't the first. "I like growing old with you guys," he responded to the cheers.
The threat of a major snowstorm didn't seem to stop the sell-out crowd from attending in full and without concern for what was going on outside. Lekman and his acoustic guitar kicked off with a three-song mini-set showcasing his new album, Life Will See You Now, which included "Evening Prayer," about his friend undergoing chemotherapy, and "How Can I Tell Him," which he called "a love song for all the guys in the crowd."
Afterwards, he comically mentioned the recent news story about Trump and Sweden, in which the U.S. President cited a non-existent terrorist attack in Lekman's home country on February 17. "What actually happened was my album came out. That is the most dramatic thing," he said to a roomful of laughs.
"I'm gonna need a beat," he then instructed before rolling out his band, who shared the same white Adidas tennis shoes and monotone attire as Lekman. And all of a sudden, the steel pan drums and bursting Caribbean vibe of "What's That Perfume That You Wear?" ignited a party-like atmosphere that continued with "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar" and later on the jovial "Opposite of Hallelujah," both from 2007's Night Falls Over Kortedala, the latter of which culminated with Lekman playing air xylophone.
Lekman showed remarkable control of his lungs on "Wedding in Finistére," succeeding in repeating the difficult chorus a handful of times at an increased tempo without flubbing. He then settled into the calmer tone of golden oldie "Black Cab," a moment that best exemplified just how rich and pure his voice can be. He closed with "Dandelion Seed," and was bombarded with requests for more music. "We'll see what happens," he replied.
When Lekman and co. came back out for an encore he said, "I told you we'd see what happens," and then launched into a booming rendition of "Maple Leaves." "That song always feels extra special when I play it in Canada," he added.
Following "A Postcard to Nina," the band left the stage, yet Lekman came back for more with his guitar. "I'll do one more," he said, before starting "I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots." When that was over, though, he couldn't pull himself from the stage. "Okay, I'll do one more," he repeated with a smile, and launched into the night's final song, "Pocketful of Money." He got the crowd to join in on the refrain of "I'll come runnin' with a heart on fire," until there was nothing left but applause.
Judging by the warmth radiating from the room, there was little sign that the snowstorm of the winter was underway outside. But that's just the effect Jens Lekman has on a crowd. He's an entertainer, but he's also a charming, sensitive and generous soul who cares an awful lot for his followers. His performances stress unity and comfort amongst his fans, and this night was no exception. There really is no one like him.