Lykke Li at The Theater at Ace Hotel: Live Review

lykke li the ace los angeles 990
Photo: Kyleen James
Lykke Li at the Theater at Ace Hotel May 19, 2014. 

The Swedish pop star led the audience through pop and melancholia at The Theater at Ace Hotel Monday.

Midway through her 75-minute show Monday, Lykke Li sensed that the sold-out crowd at downtown’s Theater at Ace Hotel had come to dance. She half-apologized for writing “a pretty sad album” -- heartbreak is at the center of her third full-length “I Never Learn” -- and after cheers rose for danceable tunes, Li was careful to point where in the show dancing would be acceptable.

Lykke Li Dives Into Heartbreak on 'I Never Learn': Album Review

It felt odd that an audience would crave that from an artist who has worked a vibe of introspection over three albums, gliding from folky roots into a ‘60s pop-and-psychedelia milieu with a distinct affinity for the sort of melody associated with her fellow Swedish pop stars.  

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Seven of nine songs on her new Atlantic Records album “I Never Learn” made it into the May 19 set, which began with the ethereal title track and closing with fat, echoey drums of "Sadness is a Blessing” from her 2011 “Wounded Rhymes”. Li, by and large, adds her name to a continuum that begins with the Shangri-La’s and Ronettes, pushing elements toward the light to achieve an ABBA-like brightness and elsewhere into a darkened corner of psychedelic swirls.

"Just Like A Dream”, “Gunshot” and "Never Gonna Love Again”, which would make perfect mid-tempo vehicle for an ABBA wannabe band, supplied the night’s brighter moments, all of them in the first half of the set. Her early hit “Little Bit” — the night’s most enthusiastically received performance — is now quite an anomaly among her other material: the bass rumbles instead of setting counter-melody; the organ is more church-like than a Vox or Farfisasound; and the drumming emphasizes the cymbals with a swinging low end that goes against the booming fat drums that drive so many of her newer songs.

Lykke Li's Wounded New Album: 'I Only Thought I Knew What Heartbreak Was Until This Record'

Much as Li set a mood of contrasts early on with sweet melodies and melancholy lyrics, musical diversity commandeered the back end. "No Rest For The Wicked" was the one early track that forsook lushness for a dramatic bass and treble contrast; her final six tracks, beginning with the one acoustic ballad "Sleeping Alone”, explored the breadth of Li’s considerable talent as a singer and songwriter, taking listeners on a Gothic and druggy journey through “Rich Kids Blues” and "Youth Knows No Pain”, tempering the mood with a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs.”

Set list:
"I Never Learn"
"Love Out Of Lust"
"Just Like A Dream"
"No Rest For The Wicked"
"Hanging High"
"Never Gonna Love Again"
"Little Bit"
"Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone"
"Sleeping Alone"
"I Follow Rivers"
"Rich Kids Blues"
"Silver Springs"
"Youth Knows No Pain"
"Get Some"

"Du Är Den Ende"
"Sadness Is A Blessing"


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