Avoiding a surrender to Jen Lekman’s charm is like passing up a slice of birthday cake or saying no to a three-year old child asking for candy—you just can’t! That sentiment seemed to gush throughout the Empty Bottle on Friday night, as Lekman warmed up the Chicago crowd with his endearing brand of indie-pop.
I did not think it was possible to become even more enamored with this Swedish indie-pop songwriter’s music more than I already was. But somewhere in the middle of his Friday night show—the second of his three-night residency at Chicago’s Empty Bottle—I realized Jens on record is simply an extension of Jens in person. For all of you familiar his music, you know this a great thing, as his innocently playful nature and whimsically clever delivery stood at the forefront of his Chicago performance.
While the first part of his set was mired in sound problems that were noticeably bothering Lekman, he eventually gave into to the adoring crowd. After remarking how much fun he had on New Year’s Eve, he expressed his desire for everyone to relive the night before, as he proclaimed “every night with Jens Lekman is like New Year’s Eve!” before jumping into a countdown at midnight. Lekman’s setlist continued with more of his iridescent fan favorites, including the jubilant brass-laden declaration of “You Are The Light” and the situational irony of “The Opposite of Hallelujah.”
With his small and witty interactions, Jens Lekman’s charismatic banter continued to endear throughout the night. Jens pulled a small feather from his microphone stand, and playfully asked his on-looking fans “Have you ever played the feather game?,” preceding to challenge the crowd to blow this feather up in the air with their breaths while he and his band played “A Handful of Feathers.” One affectionate response went to an admirer who ‘just wanted to dance’—as he referred to her as the ‘dancing lady’ for the remainder of the show. It was moments like these that brought the show alive in all its delightful warmth.
Near the end of the evening, Lekman predominantly performed songs from his latest album Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007), including a lovely suite featuring “Into Eternity,” followed with a tease of the lush intro for “And I Remember Every Kiss,” before finishing off his set with infectiously catchy “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar” (dedicated to the ‘dancing lady’).
Jens closed the night with an encore of “I Don’t Wanna Die Alone” (‘the only Christmas song he has ever written’) and his the near-perfect pop masterpiece “A Postcard to Nina”—a quirky, hilarious, and witty narrative in which Lekman pretended to be the boyfriend of his lesbian friend, in order to appease her family. As the song progresses, Lekman encounters near close calls in his impromptu role as he tries his best to keep his friend’s cover. The clever lyrical recounting shines in this song, as Lekman offers verses like this: “Your father puts on my record / He says: so tell me how you met her / I get a little nervous and change the subject / And put my hand on some metal object / He jokes and tells me it's a lie detector.”
Those introduced to Jens on Friday night were quickly converted into fans, and those already familiar with his oh-so-wonderful sounds immediately rediscovered the beauty and appeal of this Swedish musician’s songwriting flair.