An all ages crowd filled Bottom of the Hill Sunday night (3/23/2008) for a solo performance by Swedish sensation Jens Lekman. An informal poll taken by the opener indicated that a majority of attendees had, like myself, not been at Lekman's performance the previous night at Bimbo's. In any event, we were all in for a treat, as Jens sated the many faithful in attendance with a pitch-perfect set of songs mostly drawn from the excellent Night Falls Over Kortedala.

Accompanied only by his guitar, a bongo player and the occasional audio sample, the performance allowed the Swede's crooning voice and wry lyrics to overwhelm the spotlight. It's a voice so sweet that you wouldn't exactly expect it from a man who might favorably be described as unassuming, and in a full band setting as well as on record, it's easy simply to soak up the melody and lose the lyrics. One could almost feel the "ah-has!" as lyrical meanings--awkward situations, poignant moments--became clear in the stripped-down setting.

[audio:http://www.scjag.com/mp3/sc/driveinbingo.mp3]
Jens Lekman - "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo" (from Night Falls Over Kortedala)

The singer also gave context to his songs by filling out many of the stories in some very funny between-song banter. Seriously, Lekman's jokes are so polished and his transitions so seamless that he's almost more an entertainer than a musician. But maybe a little too polished; in the three times I've seen him in the past year, the routines have developed some, but still remain almost verbatim from show-to-show. At a concert, it has the odd effect of making a repeat performance feel less than 100% authentic. I'm not planning on seeing Jens Lekman again until he's got a new act to perform, but if you haven't seen it yet, it's a hell of an act.

[audio:http://www.scjag.com/mp3/sc/oppositeofhallelujah.mp3]
Jens Lekman - "The Opposite of Hallelujah" (from Night Falls Over Kortedala)

San Francisco's si, claro opened the show, and despite the solo-singer-with-a-guitar parity, you'd be hard pressed to find more musical difference between him and the headliner. Where Lekman's lyrics emphasized clever situational humor and discomfort, the opener offered introverted emotional sketches; while Jens crooned, si, claro offered a rawer, unpolished vocal approach. A couple of mid-song restarts, including an unsteady cover of Leonard Cohen's "Lover Lover Lover," lost much of the slowly-filling room, but I sense he'd be more well-received in a different environment. For fans of unpolished twee and indie pop, he's working on an album and I'll be interested to hear the finished product.