I saw Jens Lekman play the Music Hall of Williamsburg last night. I've been hearing about his live set for roughly as long as I've been hearing about his music. Everyone raved about his earnest, sweet and funny stage presence, so I showed up with high expectations. Ever since witnessing the virtuosic stage banter of the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, I was set to compare it to Jens. Well, it turns out they're completely different. Where Darnielle comes off as a storyteller and bullshitter, Jens recites perfectly (and obviously) crafted introductions to each song, all of which contain if not some of the lyrics, then the entire plot of the song. It definitely lent to the show more of an air of a piano bar, rather than a folk concert.
Jens was, of course, as hilarious as his lyrics. While he was tuning his guitar during the second encore, an audience member shouted "Give 'em hell, Jens!" to which the musician calmly replied "I can't give 'em hell with a nylon string guitar. But I'll try." He loved his audience, and they loved him back. The final song was a rendition of "Pocketful of Money", which, as recorded, has Jens singing over a sample of Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson. Rather than play the sample -- he had a small sampler he used along with an acoustic guitar and live drummer -- he asked the audience to harmonize with him, and sing Calvin's part. I am pretty sure this is the first show I had ever been to where the audience was not only asked to sing along with the band, but make up a significant part of the song.
So, here's a short recording of last night's show; a new track called "Golden Key" seguing into "Opposite of Hallelujah":
...and just in case you've never heard him in decent quality, here's his video for "You Are The Light":