TVD Live: Jens Lekman at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 10/5

My love for Jens Lekman began years ago when a friend made me a mix CD and included “A Postcard to Nina”—the ever popular, elegant, but more so, eloquent song of a truly troubled love tri-angle.

I will assume that if you are reading this, you know the song, so I will spare you an explanation. But that song, it was the reason I listened to the rest of his catalogue. Each song is written seemingly as spoken word, and some songs do include just that, but also his ability to take the lull of conversation and put it into the beauty of a song. Beyond his lyrics, there is a story that he keeps adequately detailed, though equally vague.

Wednesday night’s show had sold out well in advance, and as my friend and I approached the historic synagogue, we were immediately struck with how late we were; doors had opened at seven and we approached the entrance around seven thirty after waiting in a line almost a block long. For anyone who has attended a show at Sixth and I, you’ll know the importance of getting there early. As beautiful as the synagogue is, and it is beautiful, the columns throughout are a beast to get stuck behind, especially considering that all shows are seated. We found our way to the center balcony before moving to the left side.

When Lekman took the stage, he was contained, but charming. He was enthusiastic, but respectful of the house of worship we had gathered in. He played the guitar and had a drummer occasionally back up his vocals. He opened with his most recent and as yet, unrecorded, song “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name.” The majority of his set came from his most recent EP, An Argument With Myself and other popular songs, though “A Postcard To Nina” was surprisingly absent.

He suggested that we form a “human pyramid to soak up the sound” as a remedy to the slightly off acoustics in such a large room. Later he explained his love for Kirsten Dunst and Gothenburg before playing “Waiting for Kirsten”—a song about doing just that, though she never came. As he said, “they don’t care if you have money, or if you’re famous, or if you made out with Spider Man, everyone waits in line in Gothenburg. I wish we could apply that kind of solidarity to all of society.”

He moved through each song, more heartbreaking than the last, with personal anecdotes. His are not an empty attempt at some sort of comedy act that plagues so much band banter, but stories that are relevant both to his music and the audience. As it was that we were in Washington, DC, he told us about his last visit to the Capital City—the night President Obama was elected to office. He recalled an epiphany that the world was bigger than his recent breakup, that it wasn’t the end of the world, and there was so much world happening below his hotel window. He emailed some fans who had told him to contact them should he be bored, or curious, or whatever, and he did, on one of the most important nights in our country’s history.

Despite Lekman’s point that heartache is indeed not the end of the world, I would argue that one has to have it, probably more than is healthy, to be his fan. Tears were shed throughout the room, tissues in hand, words were mouthed while eyes were dabbed.

He closed with my personal favorite, “The Opposite of Hallelujah,” for which he had brought a recording of the additional instruments heard on the recorded version. I couldn’t help but wish that a full band had been there, just for that song, the way it builds in the same fashion as traditional show tunes.

Lekman goes on to play a four song encore alone. The beauty of his voice and the audience at full attention created an intimacy that can often lack in such a large space. Despite the columns and awkward angles, each person was focused fully, which allowed Lekman to manipulate them into song. They grew louder and quieter at his motion to do so, until it was him, alone, a cappella, growing quieter and into silence before disappearing from stage.

Photos by Erica Bruce

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