Lykke Li - Albert Hall Manchester
"Sadness is a blessing" goes a long way in describing the enormous appeal of this Swedish songwriter and chanteuse. Songs of heartache and break up, loneliness and never falling for that cad ever again resonates deep with all of us. And when cathartic release comes in form of the strangely beautiful and beguiling Lykke Li then all the better.
The magnificent Albert Hall, a converted Methodist meeting place, is the perfect locale for the night's proceedings. The beautiful stained glass and intricate stone-carved ceilings playing host to Li's often stark and mournful lyrics. The stage is straight out of a Bergman film (Ingmar not Ingrid) with swathes of black cloth streaming down from the ceiling, her band dressed in matching black outfits. Li is the mesmerising focal point, challenging us all to a game, her game - and she is in control. Silent for much of the set - aside from a brief perfunctory hello - she leaves the songs to speak for themselves.
Doing away with the age-old tradition of saving the best for last, she performs many of her most popular songs from the start. Beginning with the title track of her latest release I Never Learn, she then treats the crowd to a selection of her best loved tunes, mostly taken from the new album and 2011's Wounded Rhymes. Having recently largely disowned debut Youth Novels, the crowd is allowed only two songs from that, including 'Little Bit' with its sharp punctuation of synths and percussion that characterises much of her sound. For the final song before the encore Li brings out opening act Eliot Sumner (formally I Blame Coco) for a rousing rendition of Wounded Rhymes's 'Get Some'.
If Li was subdued for much of the performance, it is during the encore where she becomes suddenly animated, asking the crowd to choose then doing what she wants anyway. "No! I hate that song! How 'bout this one instead?", before breaking into Youth Novels' 'Dance, Dance, Dance'. A perfect end to a perfect set by one of today's most original and engaging artists. Truly a blessing.
Setlist: I Never Learn, Sadness Is a Blessing, Just Like a Dream, No Rest for the Wicked, Silent My Song, Hold On, We're Going Home (Drake cover), Little Bit, Sleeping Alone, Gunshot, I Follow Rivers, Never Gonna Love Again, Rich Kids Blues, Get Some (with Eliot Sumner)
Encore: Silver Springs (Fleetwood Mac cover), Dance, Dance, Dance