swedish showman of the century: jens lekman (“solo”) @ bottom of the hill

On Sunday I saw a “solo” set by Jens Lekman at the Bottom of the Hill.

I’d seen him a week and change prior at SxSW, but I’d bought these tickets months ago and I was really glad I went. The SxSW Mohawk set was good but this “solo”–I keep using quotes because, in fact, he played with a bongo player, perhaps named Tanya–in a small venue was a lot more intimate and malleable than that set.

Si, Claro was up on stage when I got there. It was one guitar and a voice. It was pretty dark/ emotional stuff that didn’t seem to fit with the band that most people had come for.

Jens came on wearing a white shirt with a flowery design on it and put on his archtop guitar. He made what he referred to as a “silly” request, that people didn’t take videos of that night’s performance. People sort of laughed at this and he said he figured that would be the reaction and that he wanted to keep this night special.

Special, the night was. From the get go, it was clear that Jens was in top form. He played and sang well. In addition to that, though, he’s become an excellent showman; he had the audience in the palm of his hand the whole time. We were following each detail of his stories, each demonstrative hand movement and gesture, each exaggerated facial expression.

Even in his most solo moments in the few times I’d seen him before, he’d always played with his samples at least (save the time I saw him play a song standing on a coffee table at the Rickshaw Stop with just ukulele and vocals.) On Sunday, he played entirely without samples until “I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You”, which was just a couple from the end of his regular set (and he played the encore without samples).

Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Black Cab” sans sample–I’d always heard this song with the sample along with it. He played that part on guitar and it gave the song a whole new feel.
  • the storyteller version for “Postcard for Nina”–lately his live version of this song is accompanied by a long story of how the song came about and is acted out on stage to quite an extent by Jens
  • Rollicking singalong of “Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill”–everyone sang “bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom!” while Jens mimed his heart beating.
  • Arthur Russell song (“A Little Lost”) on kalimba–I love when Jen’s plays his gorgeous sounding kalimba and this was no different. It wasn’t as heartbreakingly gorgeous as the version of “the Cold Swedish Winter” I heard him do on the instrument a few yeas back, but it was pretty nice
  • “Julie” w/ reggaeton beat–Jens said that when he was first in SF (spring of ’05 for a Cafe du Nord show) he said the same song was coming out of all of the car stereos and then sang the generic reggaeton beat, which the bongo player picked up and then they did a really odd and awesome version of “Julie” on top of it.
  • Opposite of Hallelujah->Just a Little More Time (Chairman of the Board)->Opposite of Hallelujah–Jens did a great version of long-time favorite of mine, “Opposite of Hallelujah” (with samples) but then segued into the 70s tune “Just a Little More Time” (during which he mostly danced and sang away from the mic) before coming back to his song, which ended with him miming the bell part in the air (see photo below)
    Jens Lekman – Opposite of Hallelujah (mp3)

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  • his story telling in general–between songs and even mid-song he’d break out quirky and funny little stories

Jens playing the air bells along with the “Opposite of Hallelujah” sample

This was the encore as I remember it:


  • Se a Vida E (Pet Shop Boys)
  • You are the Light
  • Shirin
  • Pocketful of Money (singalong in lieu of Beat Happening sample)

Closing with everyone singing along with “Pocketful of Money” was a pretty amazing and satisfying way to finish up the evening.

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2 responses to “swedish showman of the century: jens lekman (“solo”) @ bottom of the hill”

  1. […] Lekman (solo) @ Bottom of the Hill, SF, CA, 3/23 (original post) Jens is a showman and he’s got his show down pat these days. This was special […]

  2. […] seen Jens a few times before (including at the Bottom of the Hill last year). In the last couple years, it’s clear that Jens, who always was a dynamic […]

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