Friday, 3 October 2008

Lykke Li @ Brighton Concorde

Lykke Li is not your typical pop princess. If you believe that pop music is lightweight and lacks edge, then she is here to convert you. In its studio form the album Youth Novels is a cute sounding blend of jazzy rhythmic pop with elements of electronica that intrigues through wistful sparseness. But it is in the live arena that Lykke Li really comes alive.

Prowling on stage, she is a delightful mixture of free spirited hippy and girlish sassy punk. “If you love me, clap your hands mother fuckers ,” she commands to the boys and girls who are shouting their adorations to her at the front. They are happy to oblige as Lykke Li stomps and thrusts with tribal abandon to the muscular metal military drums coming from the stage. A short snatch of Melodies & Desires quickly blends into the jerky percussion led Dance Dance Dance, and with this it isn’t hard for her to stamp her Swedish authority on the crowd.

This is a show that has rhythm and beats at its core. Even the stage is set up to emphasize this, with the drums pushed near the front, the guitarist relegated to the shadows at the back. Many of the songs are driven by nothing more than a clattering beat, overlaid with occasional piano, samples and Lykke Li’s vocal. She’s also partial to smashing a drum herself, or adding to the mix with kazoo, triangle or a distorted megaphone. It may sound simple, but with volume and sharpness to the sound it works and creates something quite unique.

With only one album of material to showcase the set is fleshed out with some cover versions including the Vampire Weekend song Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa which is faithful to the afro beat sounding original, and a crowd seducing set closer of A Tribe Called Quest’s Can You Kick It, which shows that the girl can rap as well as sing. The highlight though is debut UK single A Little Bit released at the start of this year, a love song with a twist, with its lyrics of “And for you I keep my legs apart, and forget about my tainted heart,” which so accurately portrays the power, darkness and surrender of love in just a few words.

Lykke Li has a lack of sterility and an abundance of natural energetic non self aware stage presence that makes a refreshing change to most modern pop music. It is no surprise that as she leaves the stage tonight the encore continues even when the house lights have gone up.

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