Swedes, let it be known, should be regarded as much for their adaptability as for their ingenuity. Case in point: recent Williamsburg import and heart-sleeved Scandinavian Jens Lekman played a secret mini-set last night at Googie’s Lounge–the annoyingly-named upstairs level of LES singer-songwriter safe place The Living Room–but it resembled neither the “Singing DJ” bit he concocted for his recent CMJ appearances nor the crooner’s last sold out Webster Hall gig fronting an all-girl backing band.
Taking the stage with an audience-silencing “Good evening,” the guitarless Lekman solemnly introduced his accompanists. The house Baby Grand was helmed by a seriously fortified-looking dude, and a sparkly stockinged young woman in a plaid skirt also stood at the ready, recorder (uh, really? recorder?) in hand.
Jens told us we’d be getting six numbers–and I guess we did. Some of those songs were packaged as an oddball bit of warm-up, and there was an absurd touch in the spectacle of fifty people intently following a call-and-response that traded shrill, reedy middle school woodwind phrases with Jens’s quiet and proficient whistling.
Three songs later, Lekman ended his near streak of being oh so silent with a few fan faves. The recorder mercifully banished, Lekman’s pianist tugged Jens through a loose and loungey intro for “Sippin’ On The Sweet Nectar.” Closer “Opposite Of Hallelujah” pleasingly turned into an audience clap-along.
But the cover Jens pulled-off earlier was the one to write home to Gothenburg about. “Why do we hurt each other?” he sang, taking on ’90s hit “Water Runs Dry” by Boyz II Men. Lekman, understand, was just the pre-show for the regular Tuesday night at Googie’s, a live piano karaoke jam known as Joe McGinty’s Piano Parlour. After he finished reinvigorating the Babyface-penned hit ballad with an off-mic plea of “Don’t do it, baby,” the singer wanted to make his intentions clear.
“That was not a guilty pleasure,” he explained. “Just pleasure.”–Greg Burgett