Love, romance and Kirsten Dunst: Jens Lekman plays Terminal 5.
German vegetarian food in Berlin. Dandruff on a girl’s shoulder. Swastikas drawn in Kirsten Dunst’s cappuccinos. What do these three things have in common? Nothing, really, except for a 31-year-old Swedish songster who keeps falling in and out of love and wants only to find his right kind of romance.
Jens Lekman took the stage at Terminal 5 on Monday, Oct. 8, following the ethereal and soothing sounds of opener Taken By Trees, comprised of fellow Swedish singer-songwriter Victoria Bergsman and her band. Emerging quietly from the shadows as his keyboardist tapped out the opening notes of “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name,” Lekman gazed at the packed room from under the rim of his baseball cap and beamed widely as the crowd exploded with deafening cheers of pure bliss.
And that’s exactly what a Jens Lekman show is: an explosion of joy and a night of permanent smiling. The king of concert banter, Lekman rattled off reels of farcical — but true — anecdotes that inspired each song. One could not help but grin as he told his stories, ranging from conspiring to marry a friend to attain Australian citizenship to stalking Kirsten Dunst as she visited his hometown of Gothenburg to pretending to be his lesbian friend’s boyfriend as her father grilled him intensely.
Lekman sang of those who have had their hearts broken (“The End of the World is Bigger Than Love”) and of those who break hearts (“Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder”). But sung with his boyish charm and darling humor and accompanied by joyous instrumentation ranging from swelling baroque sounds to jazzy numbers to ABBA-esque disco jams, these overworked themes shed their typical sadness. As we’re bouncing and singing along to Lekman’s jovial tunes, we’re reminded of the absurdity of relationships, of the option to take something painful and turn it into a droll tale to share with others. Lekman transforms his crowd into a swarm of hopeless romantics, beckoning us to experience his rocky love life with him, but it’s still a journey brimming with energetic handclaps, snapping and galloping piano keys that can force even the most jaded New Yorker to groove a little.
And there’s never a dull moment with Lekman: whether he’s playing air xylophone at the end of “The Opposite of Hallelujah” — which could easily belong on a Belle and Sebastian album — or posing pensively for photographers or throwing an adorably pathetic pocketful of confetti at his audience, he catches our attention and runs with it.
Clearly a crowd-pleaser, this raconteur mostly played songs off of his latest album, “I Know What Love Isn’t,” but still incorporated old, fan favorites such as “Waiting for Kirsten” and “Sipping On the Sweet Nectar.” He commenced his three-song encore with everyone’s beloved, “A Postcard to Nina,” rousing an energetic sing-along.
As Lekman closed his show with solo performances, he offered to sing specific requests to anyone who found him in the crowd and said he would be in the city for a couple more days, if anyone would like to email him to hang out. With all his charm and graciousness, it’s no doubt he’ll be facing a full inbox. And with any luck, this self-labeled “potato chip factory boy” will be weaving new tracks about these adventures. One can only hope that he’ll return to New York City for another lively jamboree.