Saturday, May 28, 2011

A night of haunting dreams at the Vogue Theatre with Lykke Li

Lykke Li
Grimes started the show with her solo act, a beautiful mess of raw synthesizers over crushing drum tracks. She has only been making music for a few short years, and has no training in musical theory or even reading music, so the way she expresses herself in her music sounds unnatural, and yet she's quite a natural at it. She began her set with “Crystal Ball”, feeling out the crowd; her nervousness showing with a few missteps in the timing of the tracks she was mixing together. By the time she got through the second and third songs, she had pulled it all together and the crowd was on her wavelength, dancing to her dark electro beats and basking in the glow of her ethereal vocals. It was like a gothic dance version of Enya. No, I'm kidding; I kept thinking that and then giggling because technically it's an accurate description, but it sounds fucking ridiculous. Grimes killed it. I didn't think many people knew her, but she is a born-and-raised Vancouver girl, and damn, did Vancouver show her love tonight! I don't know if it's the venue or if it's the bands they host, but the opening acts seem to get a lot more love at the Vogue than they do at other venues.

Grimes - Vanessa (YSI)

The lights went dark, and the sound of drums began to pound over ghastly drones, like a new age circus horror show. Flickering bursts from the strobe lights began to illuminate a dozen narrow curtains dangling from the ceiling, which were billowing wildly like trees in a pitch-black thunderstorm. A thick stream of endless smoke rolled over the stage and through the crowd, when suddenly everything screeched to a halt. The lights came on and Lykke Li was already into the first verse of “Jerome”, a creepy-sounding but warm and tingly track off her new album, an unexpected but perfect complement to the startling introduction.

The band all wore black suits, with Lykke wearing a black bodysuit and a long black coat. They powered through what seemed like hit after epic hit, though some were songs off the new album that not many people knew yet. A few songs in, they did a beautiful cover that I recognised instantly. I noticed I was singing along with every word, but it took a second before it hit me; it was “Velvet”, a stunningly gorgeous song by UK dream pop band The Big Pink, whom I actually saw here in Vancouver last year.

There were so many highlights in Lykke Li's set, and most of them, surprisingly, weren't even the popular tunes off her first album. “We will live longer than I will. We will be better than I was. We can cross rivers with our will. We can do better than I can. So dance while you can.” That is the soothing and sublime chorus of “Love Out of Lust”, which the band turned into one hell of an epic ballad. A few songs before that, Lykke finally got her hands on an instrument, when the lights came on to reveal an autoharp on a platform in front of her, which she used to accentuate the usually unplugged acoustic song, “I Know Places”. It's really simple: just push the button for the chord you want and then sweep a finger across the strings, but it gave the song such a radiant sound!

Nearing the end of the set, Lykke took a short break while the band played an instrumental excerpt from The Knife's “Silent Shout”, another one I instantly recognised, but embarassingly didn't figure out til later. It felt quite out of place, and sounded nothing like the rest of her set, but I really can't complain when it's such an awesome song. They changed it up a bit, making it grow more chaotic than the original. Finally, they closed with Lykke introducing “Get Some” as a party song to dance to, as if we weren't already an hour into our dance party with her! The song definitely has a funkier drum beat than the rest of her catalogue. And that was the last piece of Lykke Li's perfect setlist formula: end it with a fucking BANG!

Oh yes, there was definitely an encore, but I think I've already been quite thorough, so we'll leave that as a surprise, in case you get a chance to see Lykke Li soon. She has a half dozen more US gigs left before doing what all respectable European musicians do in summer: hit up all the massive Euro festivals that we're all so jealous of here in North America!

Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers (YSI)
Lykke Li - Get Some (YSI)

Lykke Li is promoting her sophomore album Wounded Rhymes. Grimes is promoting her 2010 debut Halfaxa and her new split LP Darkbloom, with d'Eon.


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