Report: Jens Lekman Live in SF



The Swedish heartthrob packs ’em in at San Francisco museum the California Academy
of Sciences on September 29.




There are many
exhibits in the hallowed halls of the California Academy of Sciences that deal
with endangered species. Apparently, the Swedish pop star is not among them,
judging by the massive crowd that swarmed into the sprawling museum on a chilly
Thursday evening to cheer on Jens Lekman.


Those arriving
when the doors opened at 6:00 p.m. could queue up for the planetarium, stroll
along a circular ramp to view a rain forest or take pictures of each other in
front of an over-stuffed California brown bear with a hundred-foot ichthyosaur
skeleton dangling overhead. Or they could have a gander at Claude, the immense
albino alligator, floating on a log while taking an early-evening siesta. Those
with a more limited attention span might ogle a giant pendulum with so much
mass it doesn’t rotate along with the rest of the Earth and tells the time by
knocking over tiny pegs.


As I walked by
the hefty swinging weight, I flashed back to something almost as unsavory as
the Edgar Allen Poe tale “The Pit And The Pendulum.” It was the last
annual freshman General Science field trip to the Morrison Planetarium by
Carlmont high school, forever canceled after some of its wilder elements hopped
on the swinging pendulum and rode it as if they were auditioning for Pirates Of The Caribbean.


Opening the show
well before the tsunami of Lekman fans arrived, was Geoffrey O’Connor, formerly
of Australian combo the Crayon Fields, singing quietly in a voice that had
broken-hearted moments of Robin Gibb poking out every now and then. Once he
added bass and keyboard loops to his psych-pop electric guitar, however, he ran
into trouble with the bass feeding back through the PA severely enough to all
but obliterate the guitar.


If you judged
Jens Lekman only from his When I Said I
Wanted To Be Your Dog
album you might classify him as a melancholy warbler
with a sound that fed directly into the tap root of Morrissey and Stephin
Merritt. But Lekman seems like so much more than that tonight, very upbeat
without a trace of suicidal tendencies.


Accompanied on
drums and background vocals by Addison Rogers, Lekman is very chatty from the
low stage constructed in the Eastern
Garden, just outside the
Academy’s walls. Before playing “Black Cab,” a low-key gem from his Oh Jens You’re So Silent album, Lekman
explains to the crowd that he’s one of a few artists who doesn’t mind if people
talk during his show. “But for this one you have to be quiet-or get closer
together,” he says.


Lekman’s best
story comes from his hometown of Gothenburg, last summer. “A friend calls
and says, ‘Guess who just arrived in town: Kirsten Dunst.’ And she supposedly
really likes my songs. Now, I grew up next to a potato-chip factory, so I’m
trying not to be impressed by that.” But he does spend a very long time
with a pal waiting for Dunst to show up in the hippest club in town. “But
she couldn’t get in,” says Lekman. “That shows we have no VIP lists
in Gothenburg.” And it served as inspiration for his next song,
“Waiting For Kirsten.”


Some of Lekman’s
material recycles great moments from “Heat Wave” by Martha & the
Vandellas, a vocal refrain from Manfred Mann or an early single by the
Shangri-La’s. But most of it is purely his own trip. And it looks like it’s
going to be a very long and fruitful one, at that. Just as exhilarating as
Lekman’s set, was the vibe of this oddball venue. I saw more beautiful girls of
all ages tonight than I have in a long time. It was particularly refreshing to
see the girls with the Heidi Klum legs (and dresses to match) mingling with old
codgers who could have been here to accept an assignment from the National
Geographic Society to search for the source of the Nile. 





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