Philadelphia welcomed Swedish indie-pop singer Lykke Li to a sold-out show at the Theater of Living Arts May 16. The show was an international affair, with Canadian artist Grimes kicking off the event.
The stage was decorated with lengths of flowing black fabric hanging from the ceiling, which disappeared in the heavy fog that was produced before Li took the stage. By the time the band’s intro music started to play, the venue was packed. The songstress and her five bandmates, dressed in head-to-toe black, emerged through the smoke. The combination of flashing lights and fog created a stunning effect. After the intro the band, Li launched into the dreamy yet powerful song “Jerome” from her latest album “Wounded Rhymes,” which she released in February.
With her flowing all-black ensemble hair parted down the middle and slicked back in a tight bun, Li’s appearance expressed the same serious attitude she conveyed to the audience. She delivered the songs just as she did on the record, but in seeing her perform them live, the audience could see and hear her conviction behind every note she hit. She wasn’t overly personal with the audience, but she did make an effort to connect with them, first by asking if anyone in the crowd had been to Paris, then asking, “Have you ever been unhappy in Paris?” before launching into the song “Paris Blue.” During the song, the lyrics normally read, “My thoughts drift towards Malibu,” but for the occasion she switched it up by replacing “Malibu” with “Philadelphia.”
The band continued to play the majority of “Wounded Rhymes,” but switched it up with a few hits from her debut album “Youth Novels,” which came out in 2008. Throughout her set she had a pair of drumsticks, which she would tap and dance along with to emphasize her movements and the rhythm of the songs. During the song “Dance, Dance, Dance,” she brought the energy up in the venue and got the crowd singing and dancing along. Before launching into “Made You Move,” a bonus track from “Wounded Rhymes,” the singer disclosed that she had wanted to play the “secret track” in Philadelphia.
To switch things up, Li took to the piano for a poignant rendition of “I Know Places.” It was the only time during her set that she was sitting down and it was a tender moment in her otherwise powerful performance. She ended the night with her provocative single “Get Some” that left the crowd wanting more. After a short break, Li came back out for a three-song encore. For her final song, she and the band ended “Unrequited Love” by singing a heart-wrenchingly beautiful a capella harmony, which was the perfect ending to the show.
Li’s music has grown significantly since the release of her first album three years ago, and her latest album, “Wounded Rhymes,” is a testament to that. The singer puts all of her energy and passion into her live performances and brings new light to the emotions expressed in her lyrics — which could explain why she is selling out dates across the country. To experience the full effect of her music, I highly recommend making a point of seeing Li live.