All photography by Marcos Dominguez González
With the ever growing importance of live shows in today’s music industry, it becomes imperative that artists do something that will make theirs a must see. On his first stop ever in Madrid, Jens Lekman seemed to understand this fully, giving us more than just a musical show. Backed by a full band consisting of a keys, a violin, a bassist and a drummer, along with a sampler and his customary guitar, the Swedish songwriter strove to make our night just that much more special.
The keyboardist was first on stage, playing the instrumental version of “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name” as the rest of the members took the stage. From that point on, Lekman took us all under his wing, telling the stories we’ve heard time and time again over the course of his recorded work.
Because more than just singing songs Lekman took us through a journey through where and how the songs came to be, from a failed encounter with Kirstin Dunst and the posterior musings about how in Sweden everyone is treated the same (“Waiting for Kirstin”) to the time he visited a lesbian friend in Berlin who had told her parents that they were engaged and moving to America (“A Postcard to Nina”). Anecdotes like these, along with the songwriter’s enthusiasm and command of the crowd – such as the time he hushed us to listen to the ending xylophone of one song as he mimicked the motions of playing it – were ever present, and kept the crown engaged in the over an hour and fifteen minutes he was on stage, including two encores.
The focus was obviously on his latest work, I Know What Love Isn’t (expect our review tomorrow, but spoiler alert: it’s really good), and Lekman played most of what’s great from it (including the title track, “Become Someone Else’s”, “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots”, “The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love” and “The World Moves On”, though “Erica America” was sadly missed), without ignoring his back-catalog. He also dabbled in last year’s An Argument With Myself EP, playing an especially tropical version of the title track (slapping himself when the lyric required it), as well as his previous full-lengths, particularly what is considered to be his masterpiece, 2007′s Night Falls Over Kortedala, though almost ignoring his debut, When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog.
Especially on the tracks from Kortedala, which are filled with lush string arrangements and samples, the Swede demonstrated his ability with an MPC, making short beats and loops to back his instrumentation. Two standout moments of the night were “Sipping On the Sweet Water” and “The Opposite of Hallelujah”, both dancier numbers which ensured that everyone had a good time.
By the time the second encore came around, at which point it was just Lekman, jacket over his shoulder, and his keyboardist performing an acoustic take of “Tram #7 to Heaven”, the crowd was completely at his mercy, cheering, applauding, and especially, thanking him for what had been a magical night.
The thanks extended past the end of the show, when everyone bombarded the merch stand, selling out every vinyl and CD they had brought along. And if it’s shows like this that get the general public buying physical music again, everyone wins.