Lykke Li at First Avenue, 11/13/11
November 13, 2011
Lykke Li turned First Avenue into a smoke-filled drama house on Sunday night, delivering an elegant, theatrical 70-minute set to her fans who packed into the sold-out Mainroom. Li and her 5-piece backing band put on a captivating, stylish performance of both sight and sound, one which was driven by a relentless rhythm and Li's soaring, impassioned vocals.
The Swedish chanteuse had the stage shrouded in smoke and strobe-lights long before she even set foot on it, as a lengthy, pronounced intro built up the tension and energy level in the club. The band came out first, winding their way through the various black curtains that adorned the stage, before settling in to the soulful groove of "Jerome" as Li finally made her dramatic appearance. The party really got going on "I'm Good, I'm Gone," as Li frantically beat out the rhythm on a crash cymbal, a move she would repeat throughout the set whenever the spirit struck her.
After a stirring rendition of "Sadness Is A Blessing" gave Li the opportunity to fill the room with her rich, penetrating vocals, the band really caught fire with the tension-filled sensuality of "I Follow Rivers." As if there wasn't enough emotional intensity found within Li's songs themselves, the atmospheric, saturnine performance only added to the mood of the music. One moment Lykke would be singing while wrapped up in the curtains before setting off to dance perilously close to the edge of the stage while connecting with the crowd. It was all rather dramatic, and surely intended to be so. Under less capable hands it would come off as being too showy and ostentatious, but with Lykke Li it proved to be utterly entrancing.
A mercurial rendition of "Dance Dance Dance" found Li beating out the tempo of the track on a light fixture at the front of the stage, before urging an emphatic crowd singalong which closed out the rousing number. She then brought out Johanna & Klara Söderberg from openers First Aid Kit to help her sing a stunning version of "Silent My Song," with their vocal harmonies blending luxuriously as the tender song filled the room. The emotional level of the club was kept high with a lovely run-through of "I Know Places," which started out with Li strumming out the song solo on an autoharp before the rest of the band joined in halfway through. It was very moving, but only set up the crowd for what was to follow.
"I figured since I was in America, I thought it's only fitting that I do this American song for you," Li stated earnestly before launching into a gorgeous version of The Righteous Brothers classic "Unchained Melody." It was a bit of a reworked rendition which Li made entirely her own, thoroughly transfixing the audience in the process. It was such a stirring version that the next few songs couldn't possibly compare, so it wasn't until the stage was bathed in a sinister red light and the band kicked in to a stormy, stomping rendition of "Rich Kid Blues" before the set took off again. And when Li and the band tagged on a brief but boisterous cover of "Silent Shout" by fellow Swede's The Knife at the end of "Blues," the club was once again wholly under her command.
And from there the tempestuous set truly took off, as "Youth Knows No Pain" simply slayed, with the band adding on the raucous rhythms of Kanye's "Power" to the end as Li energetically sang out her lyrics from a megaphone. "Get Some" vibrantly closed out the main set, as Lykke and the band beat out the seductive tempo of the number on whatever drums they had on hand. Li's songs are totally percussion-driven, so it was a wise move to place the drummer at the front of the stage, since most of the tracks began and ended with his forcible rhythms.
After a brief encore break, Li and the band came out for only one more song, but oh what a song it was. The touching, tender ode "Unrequited Love," ended the night grandly, with Li quickly thanking us as she left the stage to a loud, lingering ovation. Between the lights, the smoke, and the songs, you aren't bound to see a more dramatic, theatrical performance at First Avenue for quite a while.
Critic's Bias: I completely fell for Lykke Li after her Varsity Theater show in '09, and I'm obviously still falling for her now.
The Crowd: This was certainly one of those SOLD-OUT sold-out shows. The place was absolutely packed.
Overheard In The Crowd: "That drummer is so hot." "You can have the drummer, and I'll take Lykke."
Random Notebook Dump: Thanks to First Avenue (and the quick response of Jeff, my +1 for the evening), I watched the show from the sweet vantage point of their Tweettable stage right. It was nice to have that small bit of sanctuary, especially given how crowded First Ave. was.
I'm Good, I'm Gone
Sadness Is A Blessing
I Follow Rivers
Dance Dance Dance
Silent My Song (with First Aid Kit)
I Know Places
Unchained Melody (The Righteous Brothers)
Love Out Of Lust
Rich Kid Blues/Silent Shout (The Knife)
Youth Knows No Pain/Power (Kanye West)
Unrequited Love (Encore)
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