Lykke Li, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Tuesday 19 April 2011
Floating among the dramatic black curtains and blisteringly bright lights of the stage at Shepherd's Bush Empire is Swedish electro-pop darling Lykke Li. Swooping around the stage in a vast black cloak and skimpy leotard, her movements call to mind a bizarre combination of Florence Welch and the masked killer from the Scream film franchise, while her voice mixes the plaintive upper register of Kate Bush with the quirky charm of Björk. Contrasts are a prevalent feature of Li's show, yet the same shifts which make it distinctive also make it a gig of mixed successes.
The slightly overlong intro to this packed-out gig is moody, mysterious and ethereal, liberally making use of a smoke machine and an impressive light show to build the atmosphere. Li's band are set up on a semicircle of raised platforms, positively funnelling the attention to the leading lady, and they give her the freedom of the stage: first-album hit "I'm Good, I'm Gone" and the tenderly delivered "Love Out of Lust" prove to be early high-points.
While the band's beautiful vocal harmonies diffuse themselves throughout "Sadness Is a Blessing" and the set closer "Unrequited Love", much of the show is spent waiting for Li's own vocals to power through, and for the petite songstress to fully embrace her frontwoman role.
When she does so, the show becomes more direct and forceful; "Get Some" and "Youth Knows No Pain" benefit hugely from this approach. However much it upsets the balance of the setlist, this style is much more enjoyable than some of the middleground that preceded it, and serves to highlight the talent of Li and her band when they really let rip.
The quieter tracks deliver a warming, soothing sound, and the rockers provide an enjoyably immediate ferocity. Unfortunately, too much time is spent in between, and as a result the crowd leave wondering what might've been.
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