Fun Fun Fun Fest
FFF6 in review: Lykke Li leaves them wanting more
As the audience waited patiently for Lykke Li Saturday at Fun Fun Fun Fest, a series of black curtains twirled ominously around the stage. As the set start time passed, then 10 minutes, then 20, the crowd began to make "Swedish Danzig" jokes while wondering whether they'd actually see a performance. Eventually, the lights dimmed, the (wholly unnecessary) smoke machines billowed, and Li and her band appeared for a brief but visually striking and crowd-pleasing 40 minutes of music.
Entering to an extended intro to "Jerome," Li's black flowing jacket and swirling hand motions seemed to arrive straight from an advanced Stevie Nicks symposium. More than anyone else we saw over the weekend, her use of visuals (monochrome outfits, thick smoke, billowing curtains and percussion as theatre) to enhance her performance really showed forethought and planning—it seemed that every second was planned long before we witnessed it. As Bjorn Yttling's tape-looped vocals kicked off "I'm Good, I'm Gone," Li wielded a drumstick with authority as she played occasional snare drum to emphasize the big drum sounds of her current stylistic bent.
For us, the most interesting aspect of the performance was which songs impressed most in the live setting. Most notably, "Sadness Is A Blessing" gained strength and weight compared to the album version—while the LP version feels slight, Li sold the song and make it feel important...even the "sadness is my boyfriend" line. By contrast, standout album track "I Follow Rivers" drew shouts of approval from the audience, but felt sub-par compared to the complicated and layered production of the version on Wounded Rhymes.
Li also transformed "Dance Dance Dance" from debut album Youth Novels into an awesome drumstick battle with a bandmate, which the crowd ate up. It was a rare moment that one noticed the band, who generally stood back and stayed far out of Ms. Li's spotlight. As the show pulled into the closing with hit "Little Bit," it was obvious some numbers had been cut due to the late start—most notably "Love Out Of Lust," which was sorely missed.
Li instead opted for a pair of mash-ups: one paired Wounded clunker "Rich Kids Blues" with The Knife's "Silent Shout," while the other mixed "Youth Knows No Pain" with the sample backdrop of Kanye West's "Power." It worked fine, but was a touch confusing since we'd seen Ellie Goulding do the exact same thing with "Power" at South By Southwest eight months ago—perhaps the two can arm-wrestle over who thought it up first?
Ms. Li obviously has a distinct mix of beauty, showmanship and style. Saturday's mostly successful set left the impression that with another couple of years and one more solid album of material to draw from, her next Austin appearance might just be unstoppable.