Lykke Li - The Glee Club, Birmingham
Once again, the Glee Club lives up to its name by offering us the ray of sunshine that is Lykke Li on a freezing cold night in Brum. There's a mixed crowd tonight, mostly young hip things but also older head-bobbers, both equally as curious to witness the young Swede who has been attracting rave reviews since that performance on Jools Holland - y'know, the one where she made you want to be the tambourine she was slapping against her thigh.
Before she can make instruments sexy here in Brum though, another recent guest of Jools gets his chance to win over a very receptive crowd. Yoav, born in Israel but an ex-pat of New York currently residing in LDN, does something with a pedal that gives the illusion he's not standing there armed only with a guitar. He's got an alluring voice and the track you might have seen on TV, entitled Club Thing, is the dark and dirty highlight of his set, which is aided by various FX and sounds he's controlling with his feet. It's strangely danceable and chilled at the same time and, despite his tracks striking me as a bit 'samey', I would certainly mark him out as one to watch.
After a short interlude where the smokers are allowed a fag break (yep, they're locked in for the rest of the evening which I find hilarious), the opening strains of Melodies & Desires signals Lykke Li's arrival on stage. Sporting a trilby with her usually bunned-up hair flowing free, she looks like a fitter Scarlett Johansson - that is, if Johansson walked around sporting crazy necklace bling. As the marvellous opener Dance Dance Dance proves though, this isn't merely a fashion thing; when the spiralling saxophone of the track's recorded version is set to kick in, Li reaches for one of the many dangly bits residing around her nick and mimics the sonics with a kazoo-type bit of kit. Not long after, she's pounding on a drum - as her drummer does the same thing on his own set, of course - during a much more adrenaline-fuelled rendition of Let It Fall than is featured on her album Youth Novels, as if to stress to the audience that she's going for a hands-on party vibe tonight.
She achieves just that with the likes of I'm Good, I'm Gone and Complaint Department, during which she jumps into the crowd in an attempt to rouse the 'depressed' crowd (her word, not mine) with her hysterical but ace dancing. It might be a bit cocky to dispense with Little Bit halfway through the set but she has the attitude and, more importantly, tunes to get away with it. Album tracks like Hanging High and Window Blues sound more robust here, the latter becoming a thing of drama propelled by pounding drums. Although her whole three-piece male band (keys, guitar, drums, not forgetting backing vox) are tight, it's hard to talk about Li's music without focusing specifically on percussion. Whether crashes of a cymbal, the tap of a tambourine or a steady roll of a marching drum, it really is as much a part of her sound as that coitish and seductive voice.
Unexpectedly, she even wraps it around a verse and chorus of Vampire Weekend's Cape Cod Kod Kwassa, telling the audience that she's a debut artist and doesn't have enough songs. This is the only slight niggle I have with her show; despite the high-energy performance and unmistakeable charisma, she says that and then doesn't play the gorgeous Time Flies, one of the saddest and most fragile things I've heard this year. Alas, even though she opts to play the inferior but still effective ballad Tonight, I can understand why the piano-led lament might not have fitted during a show where she's constantly trying to get an appreciative but nevertheless shy crowd moving along with her.
By the time Breaking It Up arrives, with its opening megaphone clarione call, it seems everyone in attendance has forgot it's Monday tomorrow as they join in with the song's irresistible handclaps; heck, some folk are even giving her Duracell bunny dance moves a go. The encore is handed over to another cover but, seeing as she so effectively scares the audience by pretending she's going to do Duffy (she even sings the opening lines of Warwick Avenue - HA!), I can forgive her. When the cover actually turns out to be A Tribe Called Quest's Can You Kick It?, I can forgive her thrice. It's handled defty and, sadly, it's not long before she's strutting offstage in an oh-so-cool 'fuck you, I'm a rockstar' way, leaving her band to wind it down. With the tabloids talking up a big Britney comeback right now, it makes me slightly angry that a young gal creating weird but fantastic pop is currently not a mainstream concern. Let's hope that changes with the second single release of Little Bit, out this month, blowing a hole in the charts; the royalties will mean she can buy a new jacket - BOO to the dirty beggar who nicked hers after this show. She's written an emotional MySpace blog and everything. Poor lovey...
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