Live Review: Lykke Li with Grimes at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 15th May 2011

By on Tuesday, 17th May 2011 at 12:00 pm

The first date on Lykke Li’s spring 2011 North American tour went off with a bang Sunday night in Washington DC. Well, not the kind of bang that the Swedish songstress envisioned, but judging from the number of times I heard “oh my god!” uttered behind me, the show was a success. Opening for Lykke Li was Grimes (aka Claire Boucher), an 18-year old Canadian singer that seemed perfectly suited for her touring companion. Remember when LL sang borderline baby talk on her first album, ‘Youth Novels’? That’s what Grimes does, and with insane dance beats and synths aplenty. Wearing combat boots (I’m a woman, hear me roar!), and a trippy skirt with metallic fringes, you would not expect the angelic, albeit childish sounds coming out of her mouth. To be honest, I think the Montreal lass outdid LL with the dance vibes. The audience may not have known who she was to begin with, but she won the crowd over with her ecletic mix of queued up samples (harp and string sections along with dance beats, anyone?). Watch her video for ‘Vanessa’ below.


And I mention the dance vibes, because apparently Twitter and other social networking have been abuzz since the show ended Sunday night that the Lykke Li show was another example of the usual stoic nature of DC crowds being unable to dance (here’s an example, and a follow-up Tweet by Will Eastman, co-owner of the famed U Street Music Hall [dance club] in our town). The problem wasn’t so much the crowd. I think in general (and the 9:30 Club suffers from this quite a lot, as our largest club-sized venue), most people did not know the new songs, many of which are more introspective and less dancey than her previous dance hits (‘I’m Good I’m Gone’, ‘A Little Bit’), the songs that got the most audience reaction. Lykke Li herself also admitted to being poorly; even though I couldn’t tell there was anyting wrong with her voice, perhaps she did not push herself as much as she could have.

And a third possible reason for audience lack of enthusiasm? Strange set list order: she should have saved “I’m Good I’m Gone” or recent single “Get Some” for the end of the encore, instead of playing “Unrequited Love” (admittedly a gorgeous number, but was unfortunately marred by people talking upstairs during the quieter number, presumably because they were bored). It’s too bad that she complained after (ironically) ‘Dance Dance Dance’ that people weren’t dancing, but as Eastman pointed out rightly, “However, it’s not the audience’s responsibility to be compelled to dance, it’s the artist’s responsibility to compel them.” Well said. And I know it’s not DC’s fault, because Delphic, Two Door Cinema Club and Cut Copy, just three gig examples in the last 8 months, got people to their feet. Okay, coming off the soapbox now…

Lykke Li wore fierce black platforms and a black leotard / cape number that disappointingly did not separate from one another as I had incorrectly predicted would happen during the tribal rhythms of ‘Get Some’. As Tim Gunn of Project Runway likes to say when clothing is too cluttered and makes no sense, “that’s a lot of look,” that’s a good way to describe the stage for Lykke Li’s performance. Black drapes hung like noodles from the ceiling. I will say that she wrapped herself in one of those drapes right after ‘Paris Blues’ before jumping out rather impressively for ‘I Follow Rivers’, very cool and a definite highlight of the night. But other than looking cool, the drapes started blocking everyone’s view of the star once the smoke machines (and the fans to blow the smoke around) started.

‘I Know Places’, featuring Lykke Li singing while playing what I think was an autoharp and being accompanied by a lone acoustic guitarist, was a nice change of pace and evidence that she’s a true performer and not just the dance music star some people thought she was. The new songs sound incredible, but I think the show would have been better in a smaller space, designed to contain less people, and therefore more dedicated fans, the type who would have appreciated the performance much more.

After the cut: photos and set list.

Grimes Photos:

Lykke Li Set List
Come Near
I’m Good I’m Gone
Sadness is a Blessing
Paris Blues
I Follow Rivers
Dance Dance Dance
Made You Move (new song?)
I Know Places
A Little Bit
Love Out of Lust
Rich Kid Blues
Silent My Song
Until We Bleed
Get Some
Youth Knows No Pain
Unrequited Love

Lykke Li Photos:

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2 Responses

3:24 pm
17th May 2011

If Lykke Li wanted people to move so bad, then she should have played some of her more up-beat songs from Youth Novels like Breaking It Up. Wounded Rhymes is most definitely a somber album. Makes me want to reflect on the sorrows of life, not dance.

Guess I’m the only one who liked the stage set up? I thought the hanging drapery and the fog were a nice touch. Reminded me of a smoky forest.

2:26 am
18th May 2011

The problem with the stage set up: I was stage left and half the time those drapes were blocking my view. Kind of annoying if you wanted to see her. However, I bet if I had stood on the other side of the stage I would not have had the same problem, b/c for whatever reason, the drapes on the opposite side of the stage weren’t moving as much (probably placement of the fans).

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