Jens Lekman @ The Garden Party
It was a sweet summers night when Jens Lekman came to town. The Swedish singer-songwriter had booked one Melbourne show on his whirlwind Australian tour. Not surprisingly, it sold out.
Lia Tsamoglou’s solo project Melodie Nelson provided a stirring opening soundtrack to the audience’s late afternoon drinks at popup venue, The Garden Party. Young designers Tim & Alix had transformed the disused space behind Melbourne Recital Centre into a flamingo-filled suburban haven. Punters lounged on AstroTurf to soak up Tsamoglou’s dreamy pop musings on crushes and spin the bottle games from her second record To The Dollhouse.
When Courtney Barnett hit the stage with her band in tow, it was hard to find a spare patch of fake grass. Donning a Hawaiian shirt and black jeans, Barnett was an unlikely charmer. Refreshingly unpretentious, her garage/country/rock tracks complemented the audience’s popular hotdog-beer consumption. “She’s such a slacker,” one audience member remarked. We loved her for it.
After sunset, it was clear who everyone came for. Bums finally left their prized plastic real estate, and a standing mass was soon extending right back to the bar. Donning black and white, bassist Julia Rydholm, drummer Hampus Ohman Frolund, pianist Jonas Abrahamsson, and violinist Josefin Runsteen walked on stage and launched into one of Lekman’s signature lush pop introductions. The man of the moment soon followed, took his guitar and started singing ‘Become Someone Else’s’ – a warning to his friend to never do that.
Falling somewhere between Morrissey and Scandinavia, Lekman’s dulcet baritone commanded everybody’s ears. We listened to every poetic counsel to not be “a sinking rock tied to a leg of a person,” but “a flat rock skipping across the ocean”. Lekman’s advice fell flat. By the end of the song, we were already his.
The evening had a special sentimentality for the ever-smiling Lekman. He lived in Melbourne for a few years back in the naughties and soon told us “It’s good to be home!”
The talented raconteur treated us to first-class banter, with hilarious anecdotes adding more context to his already deeply honest song-stories. He recounted coming close to marrying his Melburnian best friend for an Australian citizenship. ‘But then I wouldn’t have been able to write a song about it!’ he laughed before launching into the string-powered title-track off his latest album I Know What Love Isn’t.
Lekman’s set list was diplomatic, including classics like ‘Maple Leaves’ and ‘Black Cab’ alongside newer tunes from his multi-album and much-more-multi-EP catalogue. This presented some interesting transitions from cheesy pop, to disco and even reggae, with only a funny tale, warped sample, or familiar riff in between. The effect was not jarring. As far as the audience was concerned, Lekman could do no wrong.
Nevertheless, Lekman did all he could to ensure people were enjoying themselves. During the ironically euphoric ‘The Opposite of Hallelujah’, he threw confetti from his pockets and played a flawless air xylophone solo. As the flute sample pumped the catchy tune of ‘Sipping on The Sweet Nectar’, he swooped around the stage impersonating an aeroplane.
The crowd was one of the most considerate we’ve been amongst – there was hardly an iPhone in sight! Vulture gives special mention to one particularly tall fan for remaining happily crouched at half-mast for the set’s entirety. Everybody’s attention was devoted to Lekman’s Jonathan Richman-esque tales of love and heartbreak, brimming with comedic quotidian details. So many lovers’ names were mentioned that Vulture wonders whether lyrical potential factors into Lekman’s attraction to specific girls. But as he played his popular avocado-injury inspired ballad ‘Your Arms Around Me’ in his encore, we all wanted to be one of his songs too.
By the end of the generous set, everybody had well and truly fallen for the slight Swede. Girls and boys alike were gushing after he declared: ‘this has been the best show ever’. But at his second encore, Lekman let us go with the expertise of a serial heartbreaker by playing his acoustic farewell ‘And I Remember Every Kiss’. As he sang “there will be no more kisses tonight”, a passing tram comically highlighted the crowd’s silent adoration.
Whilst we were left wanting more, we appreciated the time we had with Lekman. There’s certainly no shortage of candidates for a convenience marriage if he ever wishes to return to his adopted home.
All photos by Latoyah Forsyth, courtesy of The Garden Party
Tagged Courtney Barnett, Hampus Ohman Frolund, I Know What Love Isn’t, Jens Lekman, Jonas Abrahamsson, Jonathan Richman, Josefin Runsteen, Julia Rydholm, Latoyah Forsyth, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melodie Nelson, Morrissey, The Garden Party, Tim & Alix