Everyone likes a good storyteller. Those are the people whose every word keeps you bracing for the next and whose stories seem to transcend simple subjects and circumstances. Something about the really good storytellers has them turning every unimportant detail into watershed moments — you reach out to every syllable of every word and find some sort of meaning there.
This is the kind of storyteller Jens Lekman is.
Jens (pronounced ‘yens‘) Lekman played a semi-acoustic set this Monday evening at Lincoln Hall, strumming along happily to his very Nordic brand of indie pop — alternating between cheerful and bittersweet, with a healthy smattering of dry wit and irony. It takes a certain caliber of performer to keep up the type of charming banter Lekman specializes in onstage. Others, when employing the types of keen lyrics that attempt to demonstrate intelligence, often fall back on the embellishment of the music as a safety net. But when taking into account how stripped-down many of Lekman’s numbers were that night, it was plain to see how gifted a musician, performer and storyteller he is.
In his signature barely-there Swedish-accented baritone, he often started each song with long, engrossing monologues, which seemed to lead nowhere. Soon, I, along with many of the audience members, learned that Lekman’s monologues were actually the first verses and choruses of the songs they preceded, sparking that smirk of twee quirk we all feel when hearing Stuart Murdoch hit those falsettos, but without the residual wimpiness.
Even as the set progressed and he started to turn to samples and programmed drums, Lekman didn’t let the set slide into retrograde dancehall madness. The beats were funky and the disco ball was ablaze, but Lekman’s ability to showcase the songwriting pierced through that groovy haze, adding another layer to the mix. And by the time the second encore was nearly over and Lekman was closing out “Pocketful of Money,” he ended, like many stories, where he was at the beginning — with the whole room in a quiet daze and hanging on his every word.