Jens Lekman in Whelan’s, Dublin, on Tuesday 28th March 2017
It may be the first night of the tour, but it’s far from Jens Lekman’s first time around these parts. Gauging attendances to ever-decreasing numbers of cheers, the Swedish songwriter lists out his Whelan’s appearances backwards as far as 2007 to check who was here. Reverse that phenomenon and it’s clear that Lekman’s popularity is only on the increase. It’s further compounded by the release of his fourth album ‘Life Will See You Now’ in February and the reception those songs receive. “I want to grow old with you people” he smiles to fans, returning and new – a reciprocal sentiment it would appear.
“Keep being quiet, I love it.” Maybe The Dove & The Wolf aren’t used to such an attentive crowd, but a bustling Whelan’s seems willing to go along with the pre-headliners on their first Dublin visit. Paloma Gil and Lou Hayat have left their band back in Paris on this outing, instead giving stripped-back renditions of their self-professed sad songs on two electric guitars. A lovely, acapella Insane, In Love displays a marked counterpoint between the lower register and high vocal harmonies, but it’s the melancholic hue of the duo’s guitars that stand out and sing in unison; mellifluous notes fused together over a personable, low-key set.
From the moment Lekman references himself in the first person at a certain lyrical juncture on opener Know Your Mission, the crowd are right onside. Once the band joins him on the ensuing Hotwire The Ferris Wheel, with the bass booming richly over everything, there’s a party vibe in the room that doesn’t let up. One syllable-heavy line in a refrain gives him cause for a mumbling misstep, but three out of four ain’t bad. Black Cab meanwhile profits from the texture of five vocal harmonies behind Lekman, as the support act re-join the festivities for a song’s length.
Whoops of recognition greet The Opposite of Hallelujah, and when Lekman triggers the sample of Chairmen Of The Board’s Give Me Just A Little More Time it all kicks off onstage and elsewhere – all smiling, all dancing, and with the singer hammering a tambourine to the rhythm of the festivities. He and the bassist jump in unison to the backbeat and infectious funk bassline of I Know What Love Isn’t (“from a cynical time in my life“). The instrument is pushed way to the front tonight and it’s to the benefit of all concerned – everyone should enjoy gigs as much as this bass player seems to. What’s That Perfume That You Wear? is similarly up-front, its Caribbean beat transforming into a stamping soul coda after a brief expectant pause to whet the appetite.
Dandelion Seed takes things back as the band lay down tools and the string backing track washes over everyone, with Lekman standing stage front, eyes closed. A final singsong and clap-along sees things out with A Postcard to Nina, before the singer returns alone.
With one triumphant show dispensed and twenty-six more to go, Lekman treads carefully. “My voice is about to disappear so I can’t sing anymore songs” he says regretfully, instead leaving the crowd with the promise of a quietly whispered melody in their ear at the merch stand.