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- Koko, Camden Town »
These are strange times within the land of pop. On the one hand we have the return of Britney Spears, rising like some peroxide phoenix from the ashes, once again exposing herself to the gawking masses with her rebooted all-American smile set to stun. On the other, we have…uh…Kate Perry and a rather contrived stab at lipstick lesbianism mixed with a dash of faux scandal and power chords nicked from Alanis Morissette circa 1995.
This brings us to the question that’s been hanging on more than a few lips. What ever happened to a bit of actual musical talent and a bold creative spark when it comes to the realm of female fronted pop music?
When the going gets tough, it’s best to seek out the professionals. If it’s pristine pop you’re after, then there’s only one place to turn during a dry spell: Sweden. And if it’s a bright chanteuse you’re craving, then Lykke Li is this year’s favourite.
Since the start of the year, the young Swede has leapt from strength to strength, with early reports finding normally level-headed indie types getting all hot and bothered in her presence, and debut, Youth Novels, receiving top marks from all corners. The result is a healthy momentum that culminates tonight in a packed Koko filled with smartly dressed girls and boys drawn to the credible nature and arms in the air exuberance characterising Li’s distinct brand of pop.
After months and months of constant touring, one wouldn’t be remiss in wondering whether the 22 year old will be phoning this one in. But it’s evident that from the moment she steps on stage with the hum of album opener, ‘Melodies and Desires’, serving as a backdrop, we’re here to witness a gracious performer who’s certainly ‘up for it’ this evening.
Transforming the acoustic bounce of ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ into a percussive heavy moment of tribal catharsis, Li and her spartan band work through the likes of ‘Hanging High’ and ‘Little Bit’ with a considerable aplomb that leaves much of the audience transfixed. Even lone album clunker, ‘Complaint Department’ gets reworked into a throbbing electronic number that pulsates out of the speakers with a considerable amount of thrilling low-end to spare.
It’s a set highlighted by the occasional cover, including a version of Vampire Weekend’s ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ that midway through finds Li reprising the chorus of ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ like some kind of Jamaican riddim. Coupled with her physical gyrations and a clipped vocal style that rears its head multiple times tonight, it’s difficult to deny the faint but perceptible strain of dancehall running through Li’s pop, even if it’s rarely been mentioned before.
Closing with the psyche soundtrack of ‘Window Blues’, Li leaves the stage to much fanfare before eventually returning for a final rendition of A Tribe Called Quest’s classic, ‘Can I Kick It?’ As she hits the chorus and asks if she can indeed ‘kick it’, the audience responds with a rousing affirmative as Lykke Li caps off a triumphant evening that revealed that rarest of things, a proper pop star we can all agree on.
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