Lykke Li / Feb. 2, 2009 / New York (Webster Hall)
One of the latest Swedish imports to incite a flurry of blog buzz in the States is Lykke Li, the sweet-voiced 22-year-old whose 2008 debut, "Youth Novels," walks its own quirkily charming line between Feist's simple melodies and Robyn's dance-pop sass.
While the set, produced by fellow Swede Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn & John, reveals its subtle nuances with minimal instrumentation paired with Li's almost mousy vocals, the music takes on an entirely different tone live. At New York's Webster Hall, Li's idiosyncrasies were on display with each twist and turn and hip shake, while her three-piece band fleshed out the softer tones of her songs with pounding drum beats, lumbering bass and keyboard flourishes. True, some of the hidden magic of the recordings was lost, but the performance gained some much-needed energy and enthusiasm.
The childlike nature of Li's voice also sounded stronger and more confident as she broke out of her coy shell for songs like the playful "I'm Good, I'm Gone" and "Little Bit." "Complaint Department" found Li embracing her electro-pop dance edge, a side it wouldn't hurt her to explore more of, while the two-drummer-backed "Hanging High" provided a moody, darker balance to her lighter material.
Though the show was sold out, the primarily NYU-aged crowd did little more than offer an infrequent head nod and cheers for hits like "I'm Good, I'm Gone." After failing to encourage a sing-along during a rendition of "Tears on My Pillow" for the encore, Li remarked "Don't you guys know this song?" before ending it midway and jumping into a rushed version of the ballad "Tonight." "Window Blues" also proved an unsuccessful go at a group sing-along (this time in French), and a concertgoer noted, "What is this, an iPod commercial?" at the song's almost deliberate attempt to sound offbeat.
A handful of covers (Kings Of Leon's "Knocked Up," Lil' Wayne's "A Milli") were peppered in to spice up the one-full-length-in artist's catalog, though the transition from Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" into A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" to close the show proved more awkward than inventive. Which was more or less the feel of the night on the whole: much like "Youth Novels," Li's live set is lacking a certain focus and direction. Fortunately, the statuesque blonde has a way of owning her presence onstage despite any musical missteps.
Here is Lykke Li's set list:
"Dance, Dance, Dance"
"Everybody but Me"
"I'm Good, I'm Gone"
"Let it Fall"
"I Don't Mind"
"Breaking It Up"
"Tears on My Pillow"
"Can I Kick It?"