Front Page Reviews & AIR

Lykke Live

Live at Budokan!
Live at Budokan!
Live Music Reviews from The Mule
Lykke Live


Lykke Li at the House of Blues, Boston, May 20th 2011

The stage was shrouded in darkly colored red and blue lights, and seemed to be wrapped in the dark fabric that cascaded down in strips from ceiling to floor--it was beautiful and eerie. The fabric twisted itself around various instruments on stage and around Li herself.   She would appear from the shadows and just as quickly all but disappear, rolling herself up into the fabric before emerging again and owning the stage.  At times she would swing seductively around the fabric like a pole.  Sometimes she stood deep inside the stage, appearing far away in shadowy light; sometimes she stepped to the very front of the stage, appealing to the audience with her quirky hand movements and jerky but still graceful dancing.

The stage had a number of different platforms set up for instruments: two for drums, one for a keyboard, two for guitars. The platforms allowed Li to move from instrument-to-instrument interacting with each musician, and possessing the entire space, in a variety of ways.  Really, it’s as hard to classify her stage persona as it is to categorize her music.  At times she’s sullen and shuns interaction with the audience, at other times she’s highly interactive and energetic, if frenzied, to the point of infection, or alienation. But her mercuriality pairs with the diversity of her music, which draws on European electronica, Scandinavian dance music, California beach rock, Folk, Motown, Doo-Wop, Blues, and Indie.



From song-to-song Li’s persona changed dramatically.  When she sang “Rich Kid Blues”, off Wounded Rhymes (2011), she was a frenzy of performative energy that seemed to ignore what was going on around her. At one point she used a drumstick to alternatively beat time, conduct the band, and prance around the stage like a sorcerer. This last image was only enhanced by the fact that she wore what looked like a cross between a graduation gown, and a wizard robe. Then again, this, I think, was keeping with her sort of odd-ball behavior. She seems both to want to include the audience—to appeal to them on an affective level—but also to get lost in her musical world, which involves the artistic remove evident in her clothing and certain aspects of the set design choices. This pull in opposite directions animated the show from start to finish. 

Before the HOB’s show, WFNX advertised Li’s “secret show” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art.  I later found out that Li played in the Dutch and Flemish gallery to an intimate audience of between 35 and 50 fans. I wonder now, after the HOB’s show, what it would be like to be in such close quarters with her.  Would some qualities of her persona—her edgy, quirky, and sometimes frantic behavior—be toned down or heightened when confronted with such a small audience?  Would a venue like the MFA restrict her alternately gliding and stalking movements or transform them into something completely other?   Simply put, would it be scary to be in a small room with Lykke Li?  This, I think, is the force of her art. She’s changing from moment-to-moment and song-to-song. Her mutability keeps us on edge.


Mule Chatter

Login or register to post comments
Matthew Patrei
[ 11/25/11 8:53 AM ]
loss of consciousness

my experience (which has been sparse, compared to others) in playing and performing tunes has been that the less you think, the looser you are and the better it is. i'm guessing the show is probably loosely planned, and she's getting into some half-focussed brain space, and she follows the setlist and lets her voice and body go. similar to Jonsi's performances, i think. she has a plan but follows her whims. if she's engaging the audience, she wants to. if she feels like dancing around and singing in an unlit part of the stage, she does it. she's following the set list and otherwise not thinking. that's my idea. adam, josh, nate? you guys have performed a lot. your thoughts?

lately i've been practicing the modes, and the melodic and harmonic scales, and i notice that thinking is probably only 20% of it. the rest is keeping your fingers and body loose, and hitting the notes lackadaisically. it always sounds better this way, when i'm looser and not thinking.

[ 11/23/11 12:35 AM ]

in philly she was a little more subdued...of course we were in a unitarian church

[ 09/13/11 11:29 PM ]
secret show

I was there and yes she's scary up close--just a little bit...