Jens Lekman / Tig Notaro
Bottom of the Hill; San Francisco, CA

[06-02-2009]

I have a confession to make: I used to not like Jens Lekman. I used to think his voice was forced and that his instrumentation was overbearing. As the friend with whom I attended this show used to say, I didn’t have a soul. Luckily, I've recently changed, and now I love his music. I say “luckily” because seeing Jens Lekman has made me a happier person.

I thought Tig Notaro would be Swedish, but she’s a California stand-up comic who has appeared on The Sarah Silverman Program. She was also a better start to the night than 97% of opening bands I’ve seen. She adapted her consistently laugh-out-loud jokes very well to the audience. Thanks to her, I’m finally able to say I’ve used the self-defense classes my parents made me take in high school; when Tig asked the audience for feedback on her martial arts skills, I gave advice that she deemed useless with her razor-sharp wit. I didn’t mind being insulted, and neither did the other crowd members she skewered during her set. If opening bands are meant to warm up the room, she ranks with Dan Deacon and Final Fantasy as the best show-starters I’ve seen.

But as stellar as she was, Jens was better. He started off with a request: don’t post show recordings on the internet. Not because he is against recording, but because he wanted the show to be a special experience shared only between him and those in attendance. After a couple minutes, I felt lucky to be in that audience. The set was filled with as much humor as Tig’s standup. A new track with the self-explanatory title “I Had An Argument With Myself on a Strange Street in Melbourne” included the lyrics “Fuck you/ No, fuck you/ Why are you hitting yourself?/ Stop hitting yourself!” (replete with Jens actually hitting himself), and Jens’ between-song storytelling had the crowd in stitches. But we weren’t there to see Jens Lekman The Comedian; we were there for Jens Lekman The Fantastic Musician.

As it turns out, Jens Lekman The Fantastic Musician plays songs that could fill up a small stadium. His albums don’t really come off as epic, but this concert did, and it worked incredibly well. The melodies were particularly notable, as they were unencumbered by the heavy arrangements that turned me off for over a year, and Jens’ voice sounds surprisingly better live than on record. Watching the set was an escapist experience, with the crowd singing and clapping along with Jens’ instruction.

As the night came to a close, Jens invited the audience to the venue's back patio if they wanted to say hi. Many people, including myself, took him up on it, and he talked to everyone in earnest. It was a perfect end to the night and achieved what he’d set out to do: create a communal, positive experience. In a world where people are regularly injured at shows, we'd do well to learn a little from Jens.

Photo: [Sammich]