Live Review: Lykke Li @ le Poisson Rouge, NYC 8-28-08

review by Sheryl Witlen
photos courtesy of Ear Farm

One of the numerous reasons we go to the movies is to witness that certain je ne sais quoi many actors have about them. As they are able to contort their visages into emotions in ways that we normal humans cannot, they draw us into their emotional turmoil with one flick of an eyelash or slide of a lower lip. Certain musicians also have this captivating quality, like Swedish singer Lykke Li.

What makes Lykke Li particularly unique is her ability to provide this theatrical presence for her audience, affecting them with each pout, which when combined with her crystalline voice, has allowed her to conquer American audiences with each sold out show. Lately, much has been made about Swedish borne Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson, otherwise known as Lykke Li. Girls love her for her ability to sing like a fierce sexual predator who still maintains the ability to remain cold and callous, while boys fawn over her every shimmy and shake. Boys also love her because, even while she is beautiful, she performs with the intensity and prowess that they wish they could pull off. Her catchy lyrics added into the equation are even more of a bonus! I had heard much of her striking performances at this year’s South By Southwest festivities as she performed at numerous showcases and gave interviews. Later, she was found on YouTube singing as innocently as a fresh fawn on the corner of a street in Stockholm; or squished in between her band mates in the back of a taxi in London as part of the Black Cab Sessions; or most recently timidly crooning in front of an audience on Conan O’Brien. None of this prepared me for how much I would be hanging on this songstress’ live performance at New York’s newest gem, Le Poisson Rouge.

With its circular stage in the middle of the room, Le Poisson Rouge is a performer’s playground. In the venue’s construction, special attention was paid to the acoustic quality of the room -- every nook and cranny was accounted for. Lykke Li knew exactly how to have her way with everyone in that club. The audience, who followed every flick of her golden locks and shimmy of her shoulders, was one of the most excited and active of any I have seen in New York, and they sang along to every song, clapping at all of the right moments and fighting each other for the best shot on their digital cameras or shiny iPhones. It is New York after all, and one wants to be able to show off being at a show like this as soon as possible. Her set list was crammed with all the goodies as she opened up with “Dance Dance Dance” moving along to “Little Bit,” “I’m Good I’m Gone,” and even the soft sultry lovestruck melody, “Tonight.” By covering all of her bases, from the dancey popular singles to the slower, more somber tracks, she shunned any potential criticism about lack of depth to her debut album, Youth Novels or the chance to box her in as just a disco delight. When she tossed in a cover of Vampire Weekend’s “Camp Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” we were all happy dancing fools for the remainder of the performance.

Whether she was smashing cymbals, screaming into her megaphone, or pointing adamantly into the audience with her drumstick, it was hard not to love every aggressive second as we fed on her energy and grew even more affection for her songs. Scanning the room, I was entertained by the lovestruck faces of the male audience members crouched around the stage or standing stoically against the walls. Something about her reminded me of the equally lovely and enchanting Chan Marshall. One thing is for sure: she is a force to be reckoned with and if you think you have heard the last of the “Little Bit: on repeat in your office from your female co-workers, you are sorely mistaken. Lykke Li is as catchy as can be and, secretly, you know you enjoy every single sickening second of it.


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