Jens Lekman, Luminaire, London

Luminaire, London

Setting up the stage, Jens Lekman and percussionist Tammy Karlsson, his sole band member for the night, radiate rock-star chic: he is all in black, she wears a striking tiger-print top. By the time they start playing, however, both have changed into flowing white embroidered shirts that make them look like spruced-up goatherds. It is the first of a series of transformations in which luminous songs from Lekman's latest album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, and his back catalogue are shattered and remade, stripped back to their soulful essence.

Many of the metamorphoses are a matter of expediency: Lekman cannot afford to bring his whole band to Britain, and so must make do. But making do means recording a series of "oohs" into a microphone hitched to an effects machine to create an ethereal mist of multilayered backing vocals. It means Karlsson and the audience whistling to fill in horn parts or guitar melodies. It means delivering several verses a capella, to a room so silent in captive appreciation of Lekman's lambent voice and heart-sore, humorous lyrics, the sound of a bottle falling ricochets thunderously.

It is not just Lekman's songs that emerge with astonishing clarity, it is an aspect of his personality: though apparently diffident, he is also a supremely confident, innate showman. You sense it in his easy rapport with the audience, his storytelling - especially when he fleshes out the absurd, touching background to A Postcard to Nina - and in his appropriation of other people's songs. He reinvents Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al: slowed down and divested of its irritating chorus, its poetry gleams. And when The Opposite of Hallelujah unexpectedly, hilariously mutates into Chairmen of the Board's Give Me Just a Little More Time, accompanied by a cutesy dance routine, Lekman proves himself the most beguiling of entertainers.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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