A Club Becomes a Cathedral

October 9th, 2012

Jens Lekman – Terminal 5 – October 8, 2012

Pretty much anyone who gets to the point where they’re playing a room the size of Terminal 5 has taken an interesting anecdote-laden path to get there. And his holds true for Jens Lekman, who had the honor of gracing the T5 stage last night and sang and played his way through this journey: an enchanting and endearing set of music and banter. Opening with “Become Someone Else’s,” the Swede worked through most of his new release, I Know What Love Isn’t, with his band in buoyant accompaniment: bass, drums, keys and violin. Through the first half of the show, the storytelling interwove with the music, so that the title track followed a story about not getting married just to get Australian citizenship and “Waiting for Kirsten,” a real-life fable about waiting for Kirsten Dunst in a club in his hometown begat the moral of an ideal where everyone is treated the same.

The songs felt like different episodes from the same sitcom, one “based on true events,” each rolling in and out of Lekman’s pitch-perfect banter. He’s the kind of guy who makes sure a song dedicated to those who have had their hearts broken (“The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love”) is balanced by one for the those doing the heartbreaking (“Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder”). The kind of guy who has a pocketful of confetti ready to throw on the audience at the climax of one song, mug for the cameras before another and play air xylophone along with his percussion samples throughout. With its bouncing bass and purposeful violin melodies framing Lekman’s balladeer voice, the music proved itself to be a descendant of ABBA and the Monkees with a dash of Andrew Bird.

Lekman played a wonderful, almost-solo take on “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots,” which launched the climactic second half of the show. Here, the stories made way for up-tempo groovers and road-tested segues. “The World Moves On” was a highlight, combining all the elements and strengths of the band, with shifting musical themes and rhythms and some great violin. In a flash of beats from Lekman’s little sample box, this boosted into a high-energy “Maple Leaves” with the Columbus Day crowd discovering its bounce. A pair of horn players joined in for the finale, which kept this momentum going to its natural ecstatic conclusion. As if to sum up the evening in a song, the encore, “A Postcard to Nina,” broke the wall, with Lekman’s storytelling entering the song itself, rubbing elbows with the music and pulling the audience in along with it. Planned or not, Lekman rewarded the gleeful crowd with a couple more songs, solo acoustic, including a warm sing-and-snap-along take on “Pocketful of Money,” which turned the club, he said, into a cathedral. Lekman also told the attentive crowd that he’d be in the city with nothing to do for a couple of days (besides appearing on Fallon and doing laundry), so to e-mail him if there’s anything going on. Certainly new stories—and the songs to go with them—in the making. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Mina K