Gig #3 of 2017 was one that I was hugely anticipating for the simple fact that three previous efforts to catch Jens Lekman in Glasgow had ended in failure – at least twice as he’d played when I was away on holiday while the other time the show was sold out by the time I went to sort out tickets and I couldn’t be bothered trying on the night.
For those of you who don’t know, he’s a singer-songwriter from Sweden whose fourth LP, Life Will See You Now was released some six weeks ago. He’s a fairly unique talent although in his own self-deprecating way he describes himself as a wedding-singer; but his body of work, which also consists of a number of EPs released in his native land before landing a worldwide deal with the American label Secret Canadian in 2004, has won him a decent sized following attracted by his ability to mix and match a wide range of styles and influences – I’ve seen comparisons to acts as diverse as Scott Walker, Jonathan Richman, David Byrne, Edwyn Collins, Belle & Sebastian, The Magnetic Field and Wham! (yes Wham!….and to be fair the boy does write some cheesy, danceable pop tunes alongside some achingly beautiful ballads).
Anyways….judging by reviews he had been wowing fans in North America this past few weeks and he was coming into this part of the world for gigs in Dublin, Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow before an extensive tour of Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, France and Switzerland throughout April. But somewhere along the way he has picked up a virus that led to a curtailed show in Leeds and the cancellation of Manchester the night before Glasgow. I really feared I was going to miss out again…
The venue is St Luke’s, a fairly recently converted old church in the east end of the city just a few hundred yards from the iconic Barrowlands where an all-day ultra hard rock festival with nine bands on one stage (not all at the same time!!) was taking place. Twee v Death Metal on a Saturday night in Glasgow. You can’t beat it.
I was there with Aldo and we arrived in time to see support act The Dove & The Wolf, two females on guitar who delivered what proved to be an entire set of melancholy and sad sounding songs based on vocal harmonies. They did talk in between songs and, judging by their accents, we were trying to work out which part of America they were from. And then, as if reading our minds, they asked the audience to shout out the name of their home city with the promise of a free CD to the first correct answer.
Nobody guessed they were from Paris….and NOT Paris, Texas…albeit they spend much of their time in Philadelphia which perhaps explains the American twang to their spoken English.
Their guitar work was reminiscent at times of early 80s Cocteau Twins and they provided a genuinely moving aspect to the night when they introduced one of their songs that had been written as their response to the tragedy at the Bataclan in September 2015.
Jens Lekman and his all-female backing band took to the stage at 9pm. He looked a ghastly shade of white and he immediately sat down on a chair in the middle of the stage announcing that he was determined to play but it would need to be, on doctor’s orders, a shortened set with certain songs omitted as he was incapable of hitting any high notes.
I had a real sinking feeling, thinking it would be four or five songs and goodnight…just enough to prevent anyone asking for a refund of the £16 ticket (plus booking fee & postage!). As it turned out, he played for around 50 minutes, told a couple of funny anecdotes and while he was seated throughout, his band played with real gusto and energy as if determined to take everyone’s mind off things. The set was split roughly 50/50 between songs off new LP and some old favourites, some of which were specially re-arranged. There was also a wonderful one-song encore in which The Dove and The Wolf added their fine voices.
So did Jens cut the mustard? The honest answer is yes. Of course I’d have preferred to see him in peak health and delivering the full show but the truncated version was splendid in its own right with enough magical moments ti make it memorable. He’s coming back to the UK later in the year and myself and Aldo are seriously contemplating heading south to take one of them in.
I’ve every intention of a Jens Lekman ICA in the reasonably near future, but for now I’ll leave you with one of the upbeat numbers from the new LP – one that meshes a clever and witty lyric with the best 70s disco sounds such as McFadden & Whitehead or Earth, Wind & Fire and one of the old classics that was aired last night that on its own would have the gig worth attending.