Live Music + Gig Reviews

Lykke Li + El Perro Del Mar @ ICA, London

11 June 2008

Lykke Li

Lykke Li

On a glorious summer’s evening in central London, a huddle of people watch a sparsely laid out stage as a tall, blushing heroine strums quietly before taking two slow steps to the microphone.

This is El Perro Del Mar, real name Sarah Assbring, a cult figure in her native Sweden and gracing these shores for the first time in three years. It’s worth the wait. Solo, she murmurs the lyrics to Candy as if dictating the words of a children’s fairytale whilst Party propels the urgency that can be heard on record with fierce sincerity, even if it is nearly ruined by a disruptive walkie-talkie belonging to a nearby security guard.

It’s most material from her debut record Look! It’s El Perro Del Mar that gets an airing this evening, with all its minimal gorgeousness in tact. Said minimal delivery soon changes as she’s joined by two other musicians and perhaps some of the magic is lost at this point, but the calm and elegance from Assbring’s vocal delivery never loses its appeal.

A final crashing finale just 25 minutes in brings enthusiastic bellows from the stunned audience, deep in the hope that she won’t wait so long next time round.

After a lengthy wait, the stage is pelted with darkness as an instrumental version of Melodies & Desires bursts through the speakers, a three-piece band slowly take their places and Miss Lykke Li waltzes on, smashes a tambourine for dear life and launches straight into Dance Dance Dance.

It’s one of several highlights from her debut record Youth Novels, capturing her in a variety of moods and guises from disco queen (Little Bit) to schmaltzy crooner (the brilliantly infectious My Love). Draped in a variety of gold bling, she’s as animated onstage as her album is eclectic.

She teases the audience (“I was in Oxford last night and those guys were way better than you”) and shakes her hips with gusto, rarely pausing for breath one minute and crooning a soulful non-album track the next.

But it’s the band that’s the real spectacle of the evening. Tracks such as Let it Fall, which on record drifts along uneventfully, are given a new lease of life with a demented percussionist and layered electronics adding a whole other dimension as if listening to them for the first time.

Whilst encouraging a London crowd to clap is usually seen as the same as telling a blind person to read more, Li succeeds and even encourages call and response to an excellent cover of A Tribe Called Quest‘s Can I Kick It?

Charismatic, talented and an incredible amount of fun, Lykke Li has the songs and personality to go to the very top – no doubt clapping and dancing on her way.

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More on Lykke Li
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Lykke Li @ Heaven, London