Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
I Know What Love Isn't
Jens Lekman and Taken By Trees at The Phoenix in Toronto
Frank YangTechnically, the Swedish consulate in Toronto is in the office tower on the northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor, but on Thursday night it was unofficially relocated to the Phoenix Concert Theatre, and their ambassadors for the evening were Jens Lekman and Victoria Bergsman of Taken By Trees, both with acclaimed new records just out – Lekman with I Know What Love Isn’t and Bergsman with Other Worlds.
As mentioned when this show was originally announced, it was exciting on a number of levels beyond Lekman’s first return to Toronto since April 2008; it would also be the first time he’d be performing with his own band rather than a collection of local players assembled for the occasion. Make no mistake, it’s fun and unique to see him playing with, say, The Hidden Cameras in a little room, but you’re not going to get a better actual performance than with the band with whom he’s been rehearsing and touring.
Taken By Trees were already a four-piece when they last visited in 2010 (supporting another Swede in El Perro Del Mar), and whereas for that show the band succeeded in giving the East Of Eden material some extra kick, this time they took the marginally more energetic Other Worlds and toned it down for a more languid and low key presentation. The arrangements felt more stripped down, the world music flavours still detectable but not as strong. Perhaps aware that her charms weren’t the same as charisma, Bergsman had the 1970 film A Swedish Love Story projected onto a side screen while they played, perhaps to offer something more visual to pay attention to while they played. Their set closer of “Dreams”, off the new record, was the most energized of the set and offered a taste of what they were capable of but for the most part, they were just kind of inertly pretty.
Stage presence would never be a problem for Jens Lekman, a real-life personality as charming and endearing as the characters in his songs. A late soundcheck meant the band was still scurrying around on stage come set time, but they still made a proper entrance of it with the keyboardist playing the instrumental “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name” as the all took the stage – Lekman last, of course – and started into “Become Someone Else’s”. The front third of the show was dedicated to the bigger numbers of I Know What Love Isn’t – totally fine with me as I love the record – and reinforced how great it was that it was a full-band Lekman here to play these songs; it’s hard to imagine hearing them without all the little touches that the piano, violin, bass, and drums added to Lekman’s supple voice and guitar.
Unreleased but Isn’t-era selection “Golden Key” marked the set’s pivot point, the sequenced backing track transmorgifying itself to lead into “The Opposite Of Hallelujah” and raising the enthusiasm of the crowd several more notches, particularly when Lekman finished the song at the edge of the stake playing some air glockenspiel. From there it was a string of highlights including the backstory of “Waiting For Kirsten” (about stalking Kirsten Dunst in Gothenburg), a big singalong “Black Cab”, and a “Maple Leaves” dance party – it’s funny that for all the sonic richness that playing as a five-piece band offered, the tone of the show would still be set by the sampler perched at Lekman’s right, cueing up one joyous pop song after another.
The encore gave us the title track of last year’s An Argument With Myself EP and Lekman song/story fixture “A Postcard To Nina” which somehow came with an almost entirely different story from when he was touring Night Falls Over Kortedala, though the plot itself remained the same. An unexpected twist came, however, when Lekman’s mic stand collapsed mid-song and he had to continue playing from his knees. I don’t think even he saw that one coming. A second encore brought Lekman out one more time to play “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name” solo, bringing the show full circle and to a close. The only way it could have been better is if the Swedish consulate had put out immigration forms by the door; I’m pretty sure everyone there would have taken one.
Panic Manual, Exclaim, and The National Post also have reviews of the show while Mechanical Forest Sound has some recordings. The Village Voice and The Philadelphia Inquirer have interviews with Lekman.
Photos: Jens Lekman, Taken By Trees @ The Phoenix – October 4, 2012
MP3: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”
MP3: Jens Lekman – “An Argument With Myself”
MP3: Jens Lekman – “A Higher Power”
MP3: Jens Lekman – “The Opposite Of Hallelujah”
MP3: Jens Lekman – “Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo”
MP3: Jens Lekman – “Black Cab”
MP3: Jens Lekman – “You Are The Light”
MP3: Jens Lekman – “A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “Dreams”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “Anna”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “My Boys”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “Watch The Waves”
MP3: Taken By Trees – “Lost & Found”
Video: Jens Lekman – “Become Someone Else’s”
Video: Jens Lekman – “I Know What Love Isn’t”
Video: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”
Video: Jens Lekman – “Sipping On The Sweet Nectar”
Video: Jens Lekman – “You Are The Light”
Video: Taken By Trees – “Large”
Video: Taken By Trees – “Dreams”
Video: Taken By Trees – “My Boys”
Video: Taken By Trees – “Lost And Found”
El Perro Del Mar has rolled out a new video from her forthcoming album Pale Fire, out November 13.
Video: Efterklang – “Apples”
Video: Sigur Rós – “Dauðalogn”