Sassy Swedish damsel Lykke Li caused her Philadelphia fans at the First Unitarian Church on Chestnut Street Jan. 30, to do one of two things, and in some cases both: dance and/or cry.
This is Li’s first proper U.S. tour since the release of her debut album Youth Novels, which focuses on her experiences of the highs and lows of life and love while growing up.
Opening for her was Swedish pop/blues husband and wife duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums. Lots of drums, bizarre instrumentation and wails can easily sum up their set. Singer Mariam Wallentin moaned a nearly three-minute vocal warm-up into song “The Window.”
Although her distracting groans caused the crowd’s heads to turn, the band really caught the audience’s attention with the catchy soul-inspired track “Doubt/Hope.” From that point forward, the crowd was sucked in by the compelling beat of the drums.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums closed its set with the more buoyant track, “Today/Tomorrow.” Andreas Werliin, Wallentin’s husband and the other part of Wildbirds & Peacedrums, impressed the crowd with his heavy and rhythmic drumming. He resembled a Swedish John Bonham during the song’s long drum solos.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums may have had a rocky start, but the crowd warmed up to them with head nods synchronous with the drums and cheers of admiration.
After a while, the stage was candle-lit and casting lurking shadows. Soothing and heart-warming background music from the track “Melodies & Desires” set a serious tone for Li’s grand entrance.
Dressed in a flowing black top and garnished with heavy silver chains and beads, she kicked off the night with “Dance, Dance, Dance,” which would give Shakira a run for her money with lyrics like “My hips they lie/cause in reality I’m/shy, shy, shy.”
Li, however, is more upbeat, catchy and personable live. Once the distressing, yet celebratory love song “Little Bit” blasted from the speakers, the crowd became crazed.
Not only did the crowd dance, but Li did as well. She danced softly and smoothly with lots of arm movements. Lights and candles below her cast three identical shadows on the wall above the stage. These shadowy bodies presented a tribal-type dance as all three moved in unison.
Li played other crowd favorites, “I’m Good, I’m Gone,” “Let It Fall,” “Breaking It Up” and “Tonight.” She also used the crowd as guinea pigs for her new track “Lonely,” which gained approval right away with its heavy beat and sentimental subject.
Li surprised the audience with unexpected covers of rap songs. One included Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli,” and she closed the night covering “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest, which left the audience finishing off the lyrics with “Yes you can!”
In the end, Li proved that she is not the typical pop princess. She is a woman with attitude and a vocation to make the world dance.