As Lykke Li wrapped up her tour-opening set in front of a sold out house at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre, the Swedish indie-pop starlet (and current SPIN cover star) seemed bothered by something. The fog was pumping, the lights were dazzling, the sound was spectacular and her band was halfway through a furiously rocking rendition of her single “Get Some,” but still, something was wrong.
“Stop, stop, stop, stop!” she said to her players as a coquettish smile spread across her face. Then, to the audience: “You gotta be fucking kidding me. This is the last song and I want you to dance!”
Most of the crowd was already moving — and singing along in their best high Scandinavian coo — but they cheered and redoubled their efforts at this challenge.
It was a lot to keep up with Li, who vamped, vogued and grooved profusely from center stage throughout the night. At one point, as her five-piece wrecking crew played the opening rhythms of “Dance Dance Dance” from her 2008 debut Youth Novels, she even mock tap-danced her way to the edge of the crowd, hopping up onto a monitor for a soft shoe solo.
The band too worked hard to give her older, more electronic songs the same live bombast inherent to her freshly released Wounded Rhymes. Upbeat favorites “I’m Good, I’m Gone” and “Little Bit” drew screams and stomps from the dance floor, and held up next to noirish, textured opener “Jerome” and the bass-driven second single “I Follow Rivers.”
She played some slower ones too, making the most of the four-part harmonies and arsenal of keyboards at her disposal. B-side “Paris Blue” was mournful but panoramic, and the ghostly choral flourish of “Unrequited Love” was nothing short of divine. Li pulled off a genuinely soulful cover of the Big Pink’s “Velvet,” and even improvised a bit of “California Dreamin’.”
But what stood out most — even beyond the organ-drenched doo-wop of “Rich Kids Blues” and “Sadness is a Blessing” — was the percussion. The players swapped posts constantly, but they often returned to double drummers, at which point Li would pick up sticks and wail on her own small kit. The effect was almost disorienting on their version of the Knife’s “Silent Shout.”
After repeating the trick on “Youth Knows No Pain,” Li called for a breather: “That was getting to be a lot to handle,” she said. “I’m getting older now. It’s time for the blues.”
But spirits were high and the bass was crushing, and though couples rightly swooned to 2009’s “Possibility,” which was written for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, their muse was the Li whose ringed fingers fluttered in the air, whose hips swayed and gyrated with every pulse, and who implored them, on “Love Out of Lust,” to “dance while you can, dance ’cause you must.”
I’m Good, I’m Gone
Love Out of Lust
Velvet (Big Pink)
I Follow Rivers
Youth Knows No Pain
Dance Dance Dance
Rich Kids Blues
interlude: Silent Shout (the Knife)
Until We Bleed (Kleerup ft. Lykke Li)
interlude: California Dreaming (the Mamas & the Papas)
I Know Places
Sadness is a Blessing
More Lykke Li on SPIN.com:
Check out Lykke Li’s brand new SPIN cover story >>
WATCH: Lykke Li ‘Gets Some’ on Late Night TV >>