Is Jens Lekman Sweden’s answer to Bob Dylan or Barenaked Ladies? The verdict is still out on that distinction, but one thing is for sure, the guy always puts on a hell of a show. Touring in support of his latest, I Know What Love Isn’t, Lekman made a stop at the 9:30 Club a couple of weeks ago and he and his band mates turned it into a wonderland of self deprecating humor and broken hearts. When he is on, and he frequently is, Lekman the songwriter is practically peerless, hitting just the right tone in his songs to keep them from flying over the sentimental cliff into Schmaltztown. That doesn’t always happen on record, but give the man an audience and it is practically impossible not to be won over
Introducing the title track to I Know What Love Isn’t, a be-hatted Lekman explained how he and a dear friend had talked about getting married so he could stay in Australia a few years ago, ecstatic that it would be the perfect marriage because it actually had a purpose. The hilariously bittersweet punch line was that if they did get married then he could never write the song he was about to play because it would have been a confession of the “couple’s” crimes.
Similar stories preceded practically every song throughout the evening, and whether or not it was through the sentimental misdirection of “Waiting For Kirsten,” - which isn’t really about Kirsten Dunst at all (though Lekman is apparently a HUUUUUUGE stalker fan) - or the tale of his friend Nina and her struggles to stay in the closet in her parents eyes in “Postcard To Nina” (“Nina I can be your boyfriend/ So you can stay with your girlfriend / Your father is a sweet old man / But it is hard for him to understand / That you wanna love a woman”), Lekman wistfully balanced the silly with the sublime as he and the band worked through material both old and new.
Whether he was dropping a break from Chairman of The Board’s “Give Me Just A Little More Time” into the end of “The Opposite of Hallelujah, or mimicking plucking notes from the air at the end of another song, in the end it was Lekman’s goofy charm that ultimately carried the evening. While his songs still may be leaning a little more towards the Gordon end of the spectrum then say, Blood On The Tracks, there’s enough meat on the Swede’s songwriting bones to suggest that he’s not too far away from taking himself and his songs as seriously as his talent might suggest. Until then though, there’s nothing wrong with having a good, even great time, and if you’re headed out to see Lekman this tour, that’s exactly what you’re going to get.