Oxford Art Factory, March 13
A little while into this concert a friend of mine texted me to ask essentially “why would you want to see Jens Lekman, he is so mournful”. She could not be more wrong; this could hardly be more fun.
Oh yes, he may have a dolorous voice (usually), sings of romances and life choices that go slightly, or decisively, awry (often), and revels in the banalities of a day, such as cutting yourself while chopping an avocado, or the minor missed opportunities of life, such as getting to a club after Kirsten Dunst has already left (regularly).
And certainly, in the first half of this concert the tempos and melodies - and arrangements, which in this case were for voice and guitar - were mostly at the slower, lower end of the spectrum.
But in the hands of Gothenberg’s premier exponent of the thin-man-with-guitar(and rhythm-box-and-tape-loops) genre, these aren’t negatives. They are instead tools for amused insights that never feel cruel, for self-mocking commentary that never feels indulgent, and for songs that show you humour and melancholy are not just perfect bedfellows, they are two sides of the same coin. And we’re all here to spend.
This is a man after all who began the show with a cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic? and didn’t feel cheesy but rather like some genuine innocent abroad who had convinced us already that we were on some magic carpet ride with him.
And then made us forget the absent parping brass, congas and You Can Call Me Al-bass of Wedding In Finistere by pulling us all in as the innocents at play who are "Like a five-year-old watching the ten-year-olds shoplifting/Ten-year-old watching the fifteen-year-olds French kissing/Fifteen-year-old watching the twenty-year-olds chain-smoking/Twenty-year-old watching the thirty-year-olds vanishing".
We were complicit in the plan to Hot Wire The Ferris Wheel as a kind of wistful crime-as-punishment as much as we were eager participants in the yacht rock Caribbean dance of What’s That Perfume That You Wear?. We took on the forlorn joy of a Scandi hayride in Black Cab with as much commitment as we gave to the Scottish hayride of I Know What Love Isn’t.
Why was I here? To see yet again what Belle And Sebastian crossed with Burt Bacharach feels like. To get another dose of Catholic schadenfreude in A Postcard To Nina’s tale of being the beard for a secret lesbian. To join in the love – of a tune, a witty line, another human. To do that little nerdboy move that isn’t quite a dance but is looser than a shuffle. To leave the room smiling wider than when I walked in.
Mission accomplished Jens Lekman.
Jens Lekman plays The Junk Bar’s Skukum Lounge, Brisbane, (early and late shows), March 15; The Night Cat, Melbourne, March 16; Laneway Studios Alleyway, March 16.