On Columbus Day 2012, Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman appeared like light on the stage of New York City’s Terminal 5 wearing a navy cap and jacket, white shirt, black pants and white shoes, carrying a guitar. Following a performance by Taken By Trees, he began with a new song “Become Someone Else” from his latest album “I Know What Love Isn’t.” The album is like a love letter for a lost love. Mr. Lekman’s honest and cynical lyrics are romantic and funny rather than sentimental or melancholic.
Growing up in Gothenburg Sweden, Mr. Lekman was strongly influenced by Jonathan Richman and Bell & Sebastian when he started to write songs in his teens. Since then, he has released three full album and many EPs. “I Know What Love Isn’t” is the first album since 2007’s “Night Falls Over Kortedala.” Jens has been touring and performing regularly in the US every year since 2004. Earlier this summer he appeared at the Northside Festival in Williamsburg Brooklyn. His 2012 US tour is an evolution from those of the past. First, playing Terminal 5 is a big step for his career and secondly, he appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” his very first TV appearance in the States.
After the fifth song “Golden Key,” which is not included in the new album, the audience gave a shout of joy for “The Opposite of Hallelujah.” During the song, Mr. Lekman threw white confetti at the audience, watching as it danced above them. Then he sang full of story “Waiting for Kirsten” and the fan favorite “Black Cab,” afterwards saying “You guys are really cute.”
For the ballad “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots,” Mr. Lekman performed in a cobalt blue stage lighting which created a fantastic and unrealistic atmosphere in the space. Inviting two of his musician friends to accompany him and the band on stage, they all harmonized “Into Eternity” and “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar.” During the interlude of “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar,” he spread his arms and flew on the stage like a boy running through a field of grass.
As the last song ended, he left the stage yet quickly reappeared for ”A Postcard to Nina,” and he urged the audience to sing along for the second encore “Pocketful of Money.” “I’ll come running with a heart on fire” echoed through the venue with the simple rhythms of the guitar like a chant. The very last song that night was “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name” from the new album. Mr. Lekman’s sweet voice calmed the air of the space and it quieted the night as the performance ended.
What makes Jens Lekman’s songs so special? It’s probably because they are everyone’s experiences, but Jens gives us a chance to look at our past through his experience from unique angles to see what’s around the experience. What he experienced goes into his body then comes out as touchy words with catchy melodies. His bittersweet memories are full of life, and by sharing them they become something precious and healing to himself and others. His past is living in his voice in the present.
text & photo by Taiyo Okamoto