Last night I paid what will almost certainly be my only visit to the Viaduct Theater in Chicago’s Roscoe Village. There was nothing wrong with the venue, rather it is just extremely rare to see a “rock” show in a building that primarily features theater and art events. This was a solo performance by the brilliant Jens Lekman closing out a weekend that started with 3 nights at The Empty Bottle to close 2009 and open 2010.
The sold out Viaduct gig was expressly billed as a solo show and Jens took the stage with an electric guitar, tambourine and a laptop. (Hinting at a multimedia portion of the show)
Lekman apologized for his shyness (which is kind of hard to believe for someone who repeatedly refers to himself in the 3rd person) saying he would close his eyes when he sang. After two songs Jens segued by adding the laptop in as his booming backing tape playing through the house speakers. The background music was cartoonishly loud, but being a consummate performer Lekman made light of affairs dancing and playing his “air-xylophone” on the song The Opposite Of Hallelujah. This was definitely a show for die-hards and not the same as seeing him with his band. That being said, Lekman was entertaining without being overwrought or demanding audience silence and reverence.
The crowd was encouraged to imitate the samples that frequent Lekman’s records like the Oh no no no no nos on A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill. Other highlights were an a cappella rendition of And I Remember Every Kiss and A Postcard To Nina on which Lekman recounts the story of a dinner with his friend Nina, who instead of telling her German Catholic father that she’s gay, tells him that her and Jens are engaged.
The set was just over an hour in length which seemed about right. When he returned for an encore Jens expressed regret for his airplane dancing on Sipping On The Sweet Nectar saying he was sorry the show had degenerated into a Vaudevillian display, but that he just felt it so deeply. Lekman wished all a Happy New Year, but made no mention of an upcoming album which I am certainly eager for since his last record Night Falls Over Kortedala was released in 2007.