Jens Lekman: 2.Jan.10 – Chicago

As sweet and understated as Jens Lekman is, he has managed build up quite the audience of devotees. Playing three sold out shows from New Years Eve to January 2nd at the Empty Bottle couldn’t have been easier for the Swedish folk musician. In addition to this brief residency he also added a solo show at The Viaduct Theater as a Sunday matinee that, in turn, sold out just as quickly. The fans were clearly waiting for Lekman with baited breath.

This kind of loyalty comes at a time when Lekman is in between albums, potentially on hiatus for the time being. He isn’t performing for an official tour and he hasn’t officially announced the release of his next album. Yet, his two full length albums–both 2004’s When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog and 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala–are clearly enough to provoke faith in Lekman.

Oh You’re So Silent Jens, the name of a collection of singles and EP’s from 2005 may be aptly named to describe Lekman’s personality on stage, though perhaps if one were to replace the adjective “silent “with “sensitive” it would hit the mark even closer. Lekman encourages the audience to play “feather games” and keep a feather in the air while cradling and hugging his guitar as if these were the most natural possible actions. He also talks to his fans with appreciation and modesty, telling them how beautiful they are.

In fact, Lekman’s on stage persona is paired perfectly with his lyrics, “I Don’t Wanna Die Alone”, for example. It’s what he described as the closest thing to a Christmas song along with songs professing “You are the light”. In actuality one would expect to see Lekman getting arrested and using his last phone call to dedicate a song for someone on the radio. It’s all too obvious that this sort of thing might happen to Lekman all the time yet it’s none the less endearing to listen to Lekman sing songs like “An Argument With Myself” on stage. Somehow, even the way Lekman argues with himself proves to be incredibly charming.

Throughout his 90 minute long set, Lekman acknowledged some of his strongest and most well known songs with a sense of endearing pleasure. “Maple Leaves”, “Black Cab”, “The Opposite of Hallelujah”, “A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill”, and “A Postcard to Nina” were fully realized with a backup band that included a drummer, violinist, and the bassist Julia Rydholm of Essex Green and Ladybug Transistor fame. He also had a saxophonist and trumpeter join him for some of his set, making those songs all the more triumphant. Meanwhile, Lekman mostly played guitar and the occasional keyboard with still some room to dance around the stage.

Fans were also treated to three separate encores with songs like “Into Eternity” and “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar” manifesting as sentimental serenades. Perhaps the best moment of the night was its simple but strong ending when Lekman came out alone and sang “And I Remember Every Kiss” without any instrumentation accompanying him. While it’s quite evident that Lekman is a talented songwriter, it’s the fact that every lyric he sings is completely heartfelt that makes him unique and memorable.

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