KOKO Gig Watch

This Charming Man

Jens Lekman & Viktor Sjoberg - Asian Tour 2009,
Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
9th December 2008

Jens Lekman & Viktor Sjoberg

Jens Lekman

Jens Lekman

Once in a blue moon, something cool and unexpected happens in the Kuala Lumpur live scene to liven things up good and proper. So imagine our utter surprise when completely by chance, we discovered that Swedish indie strummer Jens Lekman, backed up by regular musical sparring partner Viktor Sjoberg, was coming back to town for an intimate, lo-fi performance

Typical of your modern day globetrotting musician, Lekman and Sjoberg have been touring non-stop for the past year-and-a-half with the Kuala Lumpur show scheduled to be their final performance of the tour. So understandably, expectations were sky high ahead of the show as fans imagined it to be the perfect way for the Swedish duo to end such a punishing journey.

So on a typically rainy December evening, we fought our way through the notorious KL rush hour traffic in order to make the show at the Annexe Gallery, situated towards the back of Central Market. The gallery itself is situated on the top floor of the annexe and when you walk in the place, quite frankly, it’s not what you would expect: a long, sparse room with wooden floors that stretches back about 50 yards. Filled with people, the room began to look rather cool, and gave off a distinct Beatles “Live at The Cavern” vibe, possibly (probably) because of the narrowness of the walls in the place.

To kick-start proceedings, we started knocking back a few beers at a very reasonable RM7 a pop to get into the vibe. Then, about 9pm, everyone moved into the similarly narrow adjourning room where the gig was about to begin. In the performance room, it was dark and everyone was seated, so we decided to stand up at the back for a better view. Just like the other room, the surroundings had a strong Beatles mojo to it, which was definitely a good thing.

First up was a stripped down semi acoustic set from Kit of Silent Scenery who was backed on this occasion on acoustic guitar by the multi-talented Imam from Lightcraft. What followed was a dreamy, melodic set of personal songs, rendered in highly sensitive fashion by Kit and Imam. Kit’s falsetto vocals lingered in the air like smoke from a cigarette as seductive chords tumbled out in pleasing fashion. Considering that they had only practiced once together beforehand, it was a pretty polished affair and a nice way to get everyone warmed up.

Next up was Stone Revivals, led by the charismatic Singaporean tunesmith Esam Salleh. For the uninitiated, Esam is talented songwriter who just happens to be able to really sing, which is something of a rarity when it comes to local bands. Playing a stripped down, semi-acoustic set, Esam’s vocals really had the space to shine and shine bright it duly did. But it’s not just about vocals with Stoned Revivals. They also happen to have some instantly accessible tunes with a distinct blues and jazz edge.

By this point, the floor boards were vibrating and remembering that the MC earlier had stated that “you can tap your toes but no dancing” to avoid any structural mishaps (it is an old building after all), we were hoping that Lekman was going to be low key on his second visit to Kuala Lumpur or else the house might truly be brought down. We purposely did not check out Lekman’s Myspace prior to the gig as we at KOKO prefer to experience new music live and firsthand and have it thrown in our faces like a sponge pie and credit to the man, he did not disappoint with his performance.

Within the first chorus of his catchy opening track “I'm Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You” with its swinging Phil Spector backbeat - courtesy of Sjoberg and his trusty laptop - he instantly had the 150 strong crowd on their feet, dancing, bopping, swaying but not (as suggested) toe tapping. Structural mishaps? No one cared when the music was this good.

Like Belle and Sebastian and fellow Scandinavians Club 8, Lekman’s music is a throwback to a bygone era (C-86 anyone?) when indie bands eschewed crude, macho rock posturing in favour of a more intimate, introspective approach. So what we got with Lekman on the night were gently persuasive, bittersweet laments adorned with beautiful major seventh chords while Sjoberg supplied the potent beats and hypnotic basslines from his laptop to round up the sound.

And how the crowd, seemingly comprised mainly of hardcore Lekman fans, lapped it all up from the heartfelt romance of “The Opposite Of Hallelujah” to the cherished nostalgia of ”Shirin” (the coolest song about visiting the hairdressers as a kid ever). Elsewhere, the black humour of “Postcard To Nina” had us all in stitches while the swoonsome “Into Eternity” washed over the room like a sweet serenade as the show rolled to its conclusion. By the time the closing number “Sipping On The Sweet Nectar” was done, Lekman had everyone in the audience dancing to his beat and singing his melodies.

This show was definitely for the diehards, although there was enough charm and songcraft involved for everyone to enjoy. Many of the crowd knew all the words down pat and the joy in everyone’s faces was an expression of this fact. In summary, the man came and delivered with style, grace and the minimum of fuss. This charming man indeed.

By JT and Robin Banks

For more information on Jens Lekman, please visit:
http://www.myspace.com/jenslekmanmusic

 

Eastern Indie Eclectic
Date: 27th November 2008
By Johnny Mayo
Marking the start of their November Reign tour, Etc kicked off proceedings as the first band on stage... read more

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