Jens Lekman generally gets compared to two people: Stephin Merritt and Jonathan Richman. The former because they have similar baritone voices; and the latter for the innocent, silly, romantic nature of his songs.
At the Mercury Lounge on Saturday, there was no denying the JoJo influence on this very charming Swede. He’s also got quite a following. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the club right as he was about to go on. The bar room was empty, but when I opened the door the main space was jam-packed with people and he was already playing (a couple minutes before the scheduled Midnight start time on the chalkboard outside, but well before the 11:30 start time in the ads).
On record, Lekman’s songs are sometimes a bit cheesily produced — another thing he has in common with Jonathan Richman — but his touring band was fromage-free, with a stand-up drummer, cellist, violinist (also played keyboards), and three backup singers, one of whom also played trumpet. I knew a few songs but by no means consider myself a big fan, but I could’ve watched him play for twice as long. Most of his songs are narratives, and told stories about nearly all of them between numbers. At one point they released around 15 balloons into the audience, turning the room into one giant pinball machine during Multiball play (cannot remember which song) — sort of magical. For his last song, "Julie," he came out into the audience and climbed onto one of the couches (well, booth seats) against the wall stage left and performed un-miked with a ukulele.
The crowd were all genuine lets-have-fun fans and not a bunch of mopey types who only came because they heard it was cool. Refreshing for the Mercury Lounge. I didn’t realize he was a popular as he was, but after seeing him it makes sense. There were, though, a lot of fratty types there, one of whom uttered the overheard soundbite of the night: "Crap, I just spilled beer on my head."
Here are Jens Lekman’s remaining North American tour dates:
Mon 10/17/05 Boston, MA Boston Fish Pier
Tue 10/18/05 Toronto, ON Music Gallery
Wed 10/19/05 Cleveland, OH The Spot
Thu 10/20/05 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
Fri 10/21/05 Bloomington, IN Second Story
Sat 10/22/05 Richmond, IN Earlham College
Tue 10/25/05 Austin, TX Emo’s
Fri 10/28/05 Silver Lake, CA Spaceland
Sat 10/29/05 San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Stop
Check out Jens’ exceedingly well-shot video for "You Are the Light" at his Secretly Canadian page which goes a little ways towards explaining the suit of armor he’s wearing in that publicity photo.