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Live: Jens Lekman goes deep at the Echo

May 29, 2009 |  5:05 pm

"Do you guys want to go party after this?" said the rakish Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman in the middle of his Echo set Thursday night. The crowd's answer, naturally, was yes.

"Can it be like the scene at the end of 'Day of the Locust'?" he asked. "That's one of my favorite books."

If Lekman ever did wind up taking the crowd to a murderous riot after the show, it must have been the wittiest, catchiest and warm-hearted mauling this town has ever seen. The second night of his Echo stand was true to Lekman's last couple years of live sets -- matching sailor-inspired costumes on a revolving backing band, exquisite between-song banter, an interlude for a group airplane dance -- but it also showcased some obscure and possibly brand new tunes that suggest his time post-"Night Falls Over Kortedala" has been spent getting even funkier and weirder (and buying amazing yacht shoes and skeleton keys for his band to wear).

The highlights were there -- "A Postcard to Nina," "The Opposite of Hallelujah," "Maple Leaves" -- but a few unexpected cuts were especially striking. "An Argument With Myself" is an upbeat percussive romp, in which Lekman finds himself skulking about a dirty Australian street, figuratively and literally suggesting he stop hitting himself and sneering at his newfound propensity for smoking. But "The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love" fits right in with the grand yet arch Randy Newman-esque ballads he's so good at, tempering blowout classic-pop samples with tiny lyrical turns that slip between hilarious and unexpectedly heartfelt.

He encored with a cover of Boyz II Men's "Water Runs Dry," and if that song has ever been heard inside the walls of the Echo before, I will go buy out all of Amoeba Music's copies of "II." I don't think I've considered that tune since I was in elementary school, but Lekman's very affectionate and straightforward cover hit that songwriters' sweet spot that no one seems to touch anymore -- the moment where long-since-discarded ideas about pop are revealed as perfect craft with infinite possibilities in new hands.

-August Brown

Photo credit:Jessica Gelt