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Lykke Li At The Theater At The Ace Hotel, Monday May 19th 2014

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Lykke Li

Lykke Li is a hot ticket in town and when I tried to grab one for her show at the superb theater at the Ace Hotel a few weeks ago, I couldn’t! What? Another show which sold out in 20 seconds? I was a bit resigned but I tried a bit later the same day, and was offered one of these upper-balcony-nose-bleed tickets… What should I do? I remember asking myself. Better than nothing, so I bought it. Still, watching a show from such height and distance is a totally different experience than watching it at a few meters from the performer where I usually stand. Arriving at my seat located in row V, I realized I was up for a very long distance relationship with Lykke Li, with no close up and too many columns of air between her melancholy and mine. But this heartbreak was just one more to add to the ones she piles up all night long.

This venue was amazing, it was my first time there and this late 20s ornate theater was totally surprising inside, building an atmosphere cut for a supernatural or gothic old movie, and it was the perfect place for Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li’s magical show. I am not going to repeat this during the whole review, but I would have paid the higher price to be closer. From my roost, it seemed there was an icy tempest alternating with a wild fire happening on stage, and Lykke Li was the tortured heroine caught among lights and fumes but triumphing at each song. First, it was so hard to see her behind these violent icy lights blinding the audience, she was the phantom of the opera, started her show with passion and continued it with torch songs and dance floor numbers.

‘This might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen’ she said after a few songs and I couldn’t tell if she was talking about the luxurious place or the packed view of the audience, may be it was both. Bathed in smog and lights, she was dressed in black and from my seat, her incarnation was all voice and long hair following each of her moves. May be she didn’t really want to be seen I thought, may be she wanted to bring the northern light with her, but these lights gave me flash blindness and retinal damages for a few minutes. I concentrated on her voice and what a unique voice she has! Big and deep, girlie, nasal and smoky, a Phil-Spector-effect-kind-of-voice that she put front row the whole night, above the powerful drums and the lap steel guitar, and I could hear each single word coming from her mouth during some songs.

I have hardly listened to her new album ‘I Never Learn’ and predictably the set was heavy on new songs starting the show with the titled track, high on voices and totally glorious. Lykke Li may tell you about pain and suffering song after song, but her music is most of the time uplifting and poignant. ‘Just Like a Dream’ or ‘No Rest For The Wicked’ were resonating like a powerful thunderstorm of heartbreaks in this ancient theater… I want to s.e.e. her, I said to myself after this song, she was still moving like a ghost among bright lights and fog, and it took me a long time to be able to distinguish her silhouette. Older songs like ‘Jerome’, ‘Hanging High’ or ‘Little Bit’ were received with a formidable enthusiasm from the crowd, and people started to stand up (the Ace is an all seated theater) while security guards told them to sit back…needless to say nobody was obedient at the end of the show.

When she did the new tune ‘Never gonna love again’, may be the most easy-listening-pop song of the album, Lykke Li was victorious even walking on this fine line between lovesick-trite-cliché and grandiose chorus. ‘All we ever want to do is dance’ she said just after performing ‘Gunshot’, ‘Unfortunately I wrote a really sad album that now I have to perform.’ And she gave more of this sadness with ‘Sleeping Alone’ and the stripped down ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone’ that she seemed to sing with tears in the voice. But she re-energized the crowd with her classics such as ‘I Follow Rivers’, and ‘Get Some’, as well as a Fleetwood Mac’s cover ‘Silver Springs’, which ‘always reminds her about Los Angeles’. Lykke invited everybody to stand up during ‘Youth Knows No Pain’ and during ‘Rich Kids Blues’ the stage was on fire, literally, as the white lights had turned all-red and Lykke Li was burning her blues with passion and rage.

Not long after a delicious and ferocious ‘Get Some’, she came back for an encore, to sing this familiar song in Swedish and the totally glorious ‘Sadness Is A Blessing’, which has to be Li’s gospel. She was holding her wounded rhythms at arm length and everyone in the room was with her.

Set list:
I Never Learn
Love Out Of Lust
Just Like A Dream
No Rest For The Wicked
Jerome
Hanging High
Never Gonna Love Again
Little Bit
Gunshot
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

Encore
Du Är Den Ende
Sadness Is A Blessing



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