An evening with Jens Lekman and Taken By Trees
Back in November, I spent a magical evening at Portland's Aladdin Theater, seeing a wonderful pair of modern Swedish musical greats!
Kicking things off was the lovely Victoria Bergsman, formerly of Concretes fame. Since 2006, Bergsman has focused primarily on her solo project, Taken By Trees. As she and her band took the stage, I was mesmerized by the mixture of fuzzy beats, twangy country guitars, calypso riffs, and of course Victoria's sweet voice. She melted the heart of my plus one in particular, a diehard Concretes fan. Matching the dreamy music were trippy projected visuals of dolphins jumping, baby birds, palm trees, surfers, a school of fish... it was almost easy to forget the frigid autumn air outside with all of the laid back tropical percussion.
And then there was Jens Lekman. I'd first fallen in love with his music in high school. I became particularly smitten with his autumn anthem 'Maple Leaves' and other tunes after picking up his compilation of early EP material 'Oh You're So Silent, Jens' on a day-trip to Music Millenium from my hometown of McMinnville.
He didn't disappoint, seamlessly weaving stories into songs onstage. Sometimes it was hard to tell where a story ended and a story began, because really, they were one and the same. In a lovely Swedish accent he recounted the time he and a friend essentially stalked Kirsten Dunst when he heard she was in his hometown of Gothenburg before launching into a beautiful rendition of 'Waiting for Kirsten'. He also prefaced his performance of 'A Postcard to Nina' by explaining the backstory; a lesbian friend of his from Germany convinced him to come to dinner with her family as her supposed boyfriend. In this way, a Jens Lekman show is the ultimate experience for a Jens Lekman nerd. He doesn't just play his songs, as so many artists do. He really speaks to the audience, sharing details about his life pertaining directly to the music. Every song is a story, so seamlessly realistic yet lovely. Plus, whether he was playing air xylophone high above his head or pretending to be an airplane, he looked like he truly loved what he was doing, as did his fellow musicians on strings, drums, keys, and guitars. All were dressed in crisp black and white, but weren't stiff in the least.
The audience was receptive too! Before the end of the second song, those ambitious enough to possibly block the few of seated concertgoers began to migrate to either side of the stage, swaying side to side. Many of Jens' songs were almost surprisingly danceable, some were straight-up funky, while others were tropically influenced (much like the songs of Taken by Trees). Later on, the aisles and floor in front of the stage were filled with dancing and smiles, especially during tunes such as 'Into Eternity' and 'An Argument With Myself'. No one wanted him to leave, and he didn't seem to want to either. For a second encore, Victoria returned to the stage to join Jens for a cover.
All in all, it was a magical evening. Tack så mycket Victoria och Jens!