Lykke Li has gone through a transformation of sorts in the studio, but when it comes to her stage presence, she is still a force to be reckoned with. When the lights went down on the stage at Red Rocks on Wednesday night, the smoke poured in, the wind started to blow, and the girl in black took the stage like the reincarnation of Rock A Little-era Stevie Nicks. “I lie here like a starless lover, I’ll die here as your phantom lover…” Surrounded by 5-piece band, with her hair and cape dancing in unison, the Swedish singer-songwriter played the part of the pop star with an ease and grace that made me wonder (not for the first time) why she wasn’t headlining the venue in Morrison herself.
When Youth Novels was released in 2008, it had been preceded by countless remixes of two songs — “Little Bit” and “Dance, Dance, Dance”. Unfortunately, the remixes were better than the original recorded material. It was obvious that Lykke Li had an incredible voice, but the production on her debut album did nothing to showcase her talents. The songs felt flat. It wasn’t until Wounded Rhymes, and seeing her live for the first time in 2011, that I realized how big a disservice Björn Yttling did her on that first album. But the songs are there and she used two of them to convince the audience to leave their seats on Wednesday night. After a few selections from her best album to date, I Never Learn, she invited everyone to the stage to dance with her. Hundreds of girls flooded the front of the venue as she brought “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Little Bit” to life in a way that can only be done in a live setting. It was at this point that she owned the crowd.
“I’m glad we broke the ice. Can you stay for the whole show?“
It was a rhetorical question. She knew no one was going to leave, so she decided to drive the point home a little further. “Are you ready for Foster the People?!!! I’m only the opening act.” It was the obligatory shout-out to the band who brought her along, but with a little hint of sarcasm. Lykke Li knew the young Los Angeles band would never be able to follow her performance…and she wanted the crowd to know she knew. It might have been a little childish, or petty, but it hardly mattered when she grabbed a pair of drum sticks and started beating on everything in sight during the percussion-heavy “Gunshot”.
Audience participation was required for the next two selections. We were to slow dance during “Never Gonna Love Again” and we were to put our lighters (or phones) in the air during “I Follow Rivers”…because despite the dire warning on the new album, Li assured everyone that they “would love again”. This could have all come across as Jr. High tacky, but it really didn’t. Suspension of disbelief is easy in the presence of Lykke Li.
“Scream for me and I’ll sing for you…SCREAM for ME and I’ll sing for YOU!!!“
She’s the center of the stage, yet she stays hidden in the shadows she casts for herself. She sings about heartbreak and love lost, yet she creates a feeling of warmth and comfort with her songs. She’s marketed as an indie darling, yet she performs like a powerful pop star. She’s the opening act, yet she displays the confidence of a headliner.
Foster the People made a mistake by asking Lykke Li to tour with them. Most of the audience were there to see the “Pumped Up Kicks” guys, but anyone being honest with themselves will admit Foster the People were the inferior act of the night. A band should never book an opener that it can’t follow. Mark Foster even confessed to having his heart ripped out by Li. But she didn’t only steal his heart, she stole the show as well.
* NONONO performed an amazing set despite having the early time slot. The tracks from their debut album We Are Only What We Feel, including the extremely catchy “Pumpin’ Blood”, all sounded great as the sun set behind us. They were the perfect band to get us ready for Lykke Li. I look forward to seeing them headline their own show in the near future. Also, Lykke Li will be headlining the Ogden Theatre on Sept. 25th.
I Never Learn
Sadness Is a Blessing
Just Like a Dream
No Rest for the Wicked
Dance, Dance, Dance
Never Gonna Love Again
I Follow Rivers
Youth Knows No Pain
Like the Wind
Fire Without a Flame
Foster The People:
Life on the Nickel
Coming of Age
Goats in Trees
I Would Do Anything for You
Call It What You Want
Are You What You Want to Be?
A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon
Pumped Up Kicks
Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)