Live Review

Jens Lekman, Union Chapel, London

It couldn’t be less contrived, there’s just the life-affirming delight of being part of something special.

In a woozy red wine haze I watched ‘500 (Days of Summer)’ last week, I’m watching Jens Lekman now with a couple of guiltily sneaked in Red Stripes. The boozey bit? Well, that’s not overly relevant I guess, it’s more of an excuse for the working of my mind. So… I’m watching Jens Lekman: a light bulb flickers, a thought occurs; Jens and low-budget, way-too-cute, way too-smart indie films? All in your face charming tugs at the heartstrings mixed in with a healthy dollop of knowing cultural references aimed at us cos we, y’know, get it, and they make us feel way-too-smart and way-too-cute (c’mon, we can be cute) and, yeah, possibly a bit charmingly low budget too. Oooooh, look, listen; a B&S quote, a B&S sample (initials are enough here right? cos we’re all smart and get it, revelling in our cardiganed esoteric little worlds)…

Some people I know can’t stand this stuff; too smug, too contrived, too cynical. Me? When it’s done good? When it’s done right? Well, I think you’ve gotta have faith (faith, faith). Being in a church might be helping, but am I a believer? Hell yeah! I’m lobbing cynicism out the window, kicking smug in the shin. I desperately want it to be true that these references, these nods at what we know, are there because whoever’s writing these films or singing these songs wants us to know they adore this stuff too and want to share it. They’re not doing it to look smart, they’re doing it because of joy, enthusiasm, because of love… and, well, yeah, too look smart, of course.

And ok, Jens is smart, and knowing and, well, maybe not cute, he’s definitely smart and knowing though, but there’s so much love, soul and delicate tenderness inside him too, and Jens’ heart is going bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp and my heart’s beating, beating like Ringo, and this show is simply sensational; the implausibly giant happy / sad sigh inducing prettiness of ‘Your Arms Around Me’, the (yeah, ok) genius way-too-smart Mark E Smith lines of ‘Maple Leafs’ wrapped around the beautiful sentiment of ‘If you don’t take my hand, I lose my mind completely.’ And, get this, the sheer exuberance of ‘A Sweet Summers Night’ cajoling the whole room to their collective feet in an astonishing breakout of indie-disco*. Finally freed from the shackles of the Union Chapel’s pews we look like we could dance from noon until noon again, and when the song stops Jens pleads with us not to stop dancing, to stay on our feet. You see, this is inclusive and generous, there’s no thoughts of smugness when everyone’s dancing, and it couldn’t be less contrived, there’s just the life-affirming delight of being part of something special. Jens Lekman at the Union Chapel makes us all a believer, strengthens all our faith. Smart eh?

*Dancing grades: A+ for effort D- for attainment (and that’s some real generous marking there).

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