Jaymay and Bon IverEdit this event
It’s an evening for the sensitive ones tonight. In one corner we have the eerie folk of everyone’s new favourite American troubadour Bon Iver and in the other we find Sweden’s Jens Lekman, master of emotive earnestness and king of the deadpan one-liner. For those drawn to such things, it’s an irresistible billing that can’t be missed. Which might also explain why it brings out an almost reverential level of attention from the audience.
But first, it’s worth mentioning opener Jaymay. A New York folk songstress recently transplanted to London, she strikes a surprisingly relaxed pose as she sits alone in the middle of the stage with just her guitar. From the minute she opens her mouth, it’s evident that she’s destined to fall right in line with the Feists of the world, though tunes like _‘Corduroy’ _prove that she just might have enough quirky charm to stand out from the glut of wannabe coffee table stars.
A pleasant enough start, but what follows from Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver is a performance of such primal emotion and raw brilliance that it’s difficult to not lose all critical restraint and let loose with a flurry of gushing superlatives. Far more captivating then anything heard on record, Vernon is backed up tonight by two band members. Together, they create dense, layered harmonies on the likes of _‘Lump Sum’ _that stretch the boundaries of the word electrifying. What transpires as they run through the rest of _For Emma, Forever Ago _borders on indescribable but what hangs in the air as Vernon gently goads the audience into singing backup on _‘The Wolves (Act I and II)’ _is something that makes many feel privileged to observe what’s occurring before their eyes.
It’s already a night to remember then, which means that Jens Lekman has his work cut out for him. Having previously witnessed Lekman plying his trade with just an acoustic guitar, what’s paraded before us is a far different beast when supported by a full band in candy coloured outfits. Ever the showman, it’s clear that Lekman sees himself as taking part in a long tradition of songwriting entertainers. It’s an endearing, admirable goal even if it occasionally comes across as gratingly twee. Unfortunately, it’s this latter point that tarnishes much of the set with crowd favourites like ‘A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill’ _turning into a clip from children’s morning TV instead of the rowdy sing-along it should be. Yet all is not lost. ‘Black Cab’ and _‘Maple Leaves’ _translate perfectly within the confines of the Scala and when Jens strips his sound back for ‘Shirin’ or his cover of Arthur Russell’s _‘A Little Lost’, we spy the Lekman many rightfully fell in love with and came here to see.
Tonight’s victor? Bon Iver, but Jens certainly deserves an honourable mention.
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