LYKKE LI at the OGDEN | 11/11/11
Lykke Li is imperfect. She has acne, patchy uneven skin and greasy hair. At last night's performance at the Ogden, it was these facets of her physical body that made Li an even bigger, brighter star to the almost (if not) sold-out crowd. In photos, on record, and in video performances, the Swedish singer and multi-instrumentalist is an unreal figure in her own existence; she commands attention with beautifully orchestrated wails and entrancing hand gestures. Her unmatched physical beauty no doubt plays a part in her ability to engage others, but to see the being, on stage, cast in the light of reality took Li's musical presence to a higher level.
Everything was black -- strips of black fabric hung from the ceiling like shaky, unstable columns as clouds of synthetic fog rolled through the air. Li's band, dotting the stage in a non-traditional pattern, was also donning black. And when Li finally arrived, opening with the thunderous "Jerome," she too was cloaked in black.
Diving into her own invisible pool of energy head first, each song came off like it was the end of the show -- Li's face crinkled in perceived pain as she shook and howled through "I'm good, I'm Gone," "Sadness Is A Blessing" and "I Follow Rivers."
Sometimes she reached for a pair of drumsticks, slamming hard on a single cymbal and floor tom. Other times, Li beat her chest, squeezing her eyes closed and letting her mouth hang half-open, lips completely still, somehow still pushing her grand voice out.
Like a matron saint of anti-pop, Li was shrouded head-to-toe in modesty; she turned her back to the crowd at times, allowing a powerful sensuality slowly slither out with each hip shake. Li was good at letting fans have moments too -- during songs like "Dance, Dance, Dance" and "Little Bit," the performer's voice would drop out and she would beckon the crowd to sing along.
Momentarily, the stage was flooded with the only color it would see during the performance -- red. The pour of crimson lighting was the appropriate setting for "Love Out Of Lust," Li again flicking fingers at the audience as if to entice the theater's contents to join her on stage.
Toward the end of one of the show's many mini-climaxes, Li brought out her signature megaphone for "Youth Knows No Pain," shouting and grinning through the voice-altering tool before the stage went dark. Slowly and with heavy precision, the band began to build the rumbling beat of "Get Some," as Li slowly spun and jerked about in preparation for the closing track.
In a fit of rhythm, the performer stomped off stage, returning not long after for an encore of "Unchained Melody" and "Unrequited Love." In the midst of the former, Li stopped the song, smiled and asked her audience "Don't you know this song?" She picked right back up and did gorgeous justice to The Righteous Brothers' classic.
I can't imagine Lykke Li playing the mid-sized Ogden again -- she seems to finally be on the deserved track to monumental greatness. If star power is a real phenomenon, Li has it -- talent, continuity, grace, power, congeniality and all.
Fellow Swedes First Aid Kit opened the show -- and they were nice. There wasn't much to say about Johanna and Klara Söderberg's formulaic, if not pretty sisterly harmonies, but draped in strange, matching, cultish gowns, the duo held court for almost an hour.
The Söderbergs sort of looked like a spread from the September issue of Vogue come to life, their long hair and peach cheeks softly belting out songs like "Ghost Town" and "The Lion's Roar" to a fairly captive audience. "Emmylou" was a resonant kicker that showcased a taut strength in two otherwise gentle voices. Closing the set, First Aid Kit did a little effort-full rocking out behind keyboard stand and electric guitar, though it proved impossible, as hard as the women tried, to mess up their hair.
Personal Bias: My Lykke Li obsession started when "Little Bit" went viral in 2007. I didn't think she would tour ever though Colorado, but judging by the possibly sold-out crowd at the Ogden, I wasn't the only one who has loved her music since the beginning.
By the Way: There were two big shows happening at venues on Colfax last night, both attracting young women whose fandom was clearly visible by apparel choice. Lykke Li fans sported knit tights, riding boots and hair up in buns and loose knots in Lykke Li-homage. Savoy (performing two blocks away at the Fillmore Auditorium) fans wore booty shorts. And glitter.
Random Detail: Li's back-up singer could have passed as her identical twin. I'm not sure if the two women are legitimately related, but their facial features and stature were very close matches.
Lykke Li Ogden Theatre - 11/11/11 Denver, CO 1. Jerome 2. I'm Good, I'm Gone 3. Sadness Is A Blessing 4. I Follow Rivers 5. Dance, Dance, Dance 6. I Know Places 7. Little Bit 8. Love Out Of Lust 9. Rich Kids Blues 10. Youth Knows No Pain 11. Get Some
ENCORE 12. Unchained Melody (The Righteous Brothers' cover) 13. Unrequited Love
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