Lykke Li, the 25 year old Swedish alt-pop star, amazed the Ogden Theatere on Friday night. Despite wide acclaim for her March 2011 release, “Wounded Rhymes,” as well as her 2008 debut “Youth Novels,” one would have scarcely expected a tour-de-force performance like this; trippy atmospherics, a monster backing band and stunning, far-above-average production values for an Ogden-size venue.
The all-but-sold out Ogden was packed; perhaps 65-70% female (and, of note, the best looking audience in years. Way to be attractive, Denver!) People kept filtering in throughout the quite enjoyable folk set by openers and fellow Swedes, First Aid Kit. Sisters Johanna (vocals, keyboard) and Klara (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) Söderberg and their drummer (backing vocals) succeeded in getting boisterous Friday night revelers to actually listen to their quieter, wearied songs. With each successive song they won the crowd over with gorgeous harmonies (and Denver references).
At about 10:20 p.m., the Ogden darkened, interrupted by monochromatic strobes, smoke machine fog and pulsing electronics. After a few minutes, Lykke Li came out, draped in her trademark long black cloak (?) and, with “Jerome,” it was on, followed by crowd favorite “I’m Good, I’m Gone.” Li’s percussive, bass heavy, backing band achieved telemetry quickly and often; the two drummers did cross-rhythms, the bassist laid down snaky basslines. Synths/electronics were used perfectly. Li, herself, on occasion, bashed a cymbal and floor tom. Above all, the sound at the Ogden, as now appears the norm, was superlative.
Next up was “Sadness Is A Blessing,” reminiscent of the Shangri-Las’ mid-’60s teen melodramas, backed with a Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” beat. Li’s voice was the star on this high point, and, despite the slowed pace, it hardly diminished the crowd’s ardour.
Following suddenly muscular dance tracks with the intimate, stripped-down, “I Know Places” provided a mid-show reflection on how exceptional this performance was and laying out yet another of Lykke’s Li’s myriad contradictions. She followed that with “Little Bit,” the debut track that launched a thousand blog posts, and, like that, the crowd went all in. People were dancing everywhere, singing along. From then on, it was one stunner after another, culminating with her taunting Diddley-beat, knockout punch, “Get Some.”
A somber two song encore of the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” and “Unrequited Love” from “Wounded Rhymes” brought everyone softly back down. In a year of great shows at the Ogden, this show, this performance, this PERFORMER, next witnessed at a much larger venue, has to rank among its best.
Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.
Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.