“So I am Jens Lekman, and you are New York City. It’s nice to meet you.” From the start of Saturday night’s set at Webster, Jens led his seven-deep, white-clad backing band (six women and one DJ dude, as at Bowery last year, headlining the Beirut gig) in a show of great tunes and deadpan wit. Three albums in, Jens finds himself in an enviable position: Everything out of his mouth is presumed to be funny until proven otherwise (even his upfront confession of how long the set would be — “We are going to play 13 songs for you tonight” — gets a laugh). He’s earned it, though; his best songs bubble over with a lyrical wit with a keen eye for detail and story telling. Plus, he is a fully realized pop genius, and each of his full-length records is its own masterpiece, after all.
With those qualities in mind, you can look at “A Postcard To Nina” as the quintessential Jens song; it’s the one we turned to when trying convert a neophyte on a roadtrip, anyway. And it works. Besides the wit, it’s that tune’s movement — the horns, the strings, the croon, the swing — that showcases his aesthetic. And so it is in a live setting, too. “I’ve told this story so many times already,” he started as the band kicked into “Postcard.” But it wasn’t a “oh woe is me for having to play this song you love so many times”; instead Jens used it as a jumping off point to fill in details via over-the-music banter (“Took the bus, it was cheap, it just took twenty hours to get there. You can’t feel your ass anymore.”), bringing new depth and endearment to an already deep and endearing song.
Jens’s backgrounders looked adoringly at him throughout the show, which basically put them in the company of the audience (only, they broke it up with hip sways, violins, horns, claps, background vocals, and twirling around like planes during “Sipping On Sweet Nectar” — not unlike the video). Lekman’s voice rang richer in Webster than it does in our headphones, but otherwise the Hall let us down a little and shocked Jens (the adjoining dance club’s Halloween bump ‘n’ grind well underway, the second encore found Jens solo trying to get us to clap in time to the booty beat). NYT covers that angle well. The Times concludes, “If ever there was an indie bandwagon ripe for the jumping, this is it.” They’re writing for different readers, for us that’d be preaching to the choir. But they’re right.
More pics and setlist after the jump.
01 “Into Eternity”
02 “Opposite Of Hallelujah”
03 “A Postcard To Nina”
04 “Your Arms Around Me”
05 “Black Cab”
06 “You Are The Light”
07 “The Cold Swedish Winter”
08 “Sipping On Sweet Nectar”
09 “Maple Leaves”
10 “Shirin” (written for/dedicated to Jens’s old hairdresser; she was “the only thing aside from his studio that produced any beauty in Kortedala”)
11 “Paris” (Moondog cover w/ Silver Ages)
12 “A Sweet Summer Night On Hammer Hill”
13 “Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo”
14 “Pocket Full Of Money” (solo)