Saturday 7 December 2019

Review of pop star Lykke Li in Vicar Street, Dublin

Lykke Li
Lykke Li
John Meagher

John Meagher

Although much acclaimed among discerning pop lovers since releasing debut album Youth Novels in 2008, Sweden's Lykke Li Zachrisson has found herself becoming far better known in the past few months.

It's all thanks to her appearance on the latest U2 album - the one that was gifted to half a billion iTunes customers. But the 28-year-old from Ystad doesn't mention Bono and friends once tonight and there's no place for the song she sung on - 'The Troubles' - which happens to be the best track on Songs of Innocence.

She doesn't need to jump on U2's coat-tails in their home town, of course, because she comes armed with her own batch of superb songs. And much like her illustrious Swedish pop forebears, ABBA, her captivating recent work takes heartbreak and wraps it in a sparkling cloak. 'Never Gonna Love Again' - which is introduced, accurately, as a power ballad - could easily have come from the pen of Benny and Bjorn and one could imagine Agnetha or Frida wringing pop gold from its melodramatic despair.

Her most recent album, I Never Learn, is full of such break-up fare and she makes no attempt to sugar-coat the subject matter. The funereal 'Sleeping Alone' is so raw and intimate that one almost feels voyeuristic for listening, while 'Just Like A Dream' finds her ruminating on that moment where the jilted one is willing to sacrifice everything, including their dignity, to get a lover to stay.

In truth, Lykke Li's maudlin preoccupations can try the patience of even her more ardent admirers and there are times where she struggles to pull the show together. There's something slightly disorientating, too, about a singer who flits from avant garde to full-on commercial - and you're left wondering whether she's comfortable in either role.

Such thoughts disappear during an inspired cover of 'Hold On We're Going Home' from rap superstar Drake - her subdued version manages to be so much more illuminating than his glossy original - and she is in superb form on a vibrant rendition of perhaps her most emblematic song, 'I Follow Rivers'. It's here that her all-male five-piece band truly make their presence felt.

Towards the end, she offers a surprise in the form of a duet with the androgynous-looking Eliot Sumner - Sting's musician daughter -who has been supporting her on her European tour. The pair kick up quite a racket on the raucous 'Get Some', but there's nothing playful about the night's final song, the magnificent 'Heart of Steel', and its "don't leave me" plea.

Irish Independent

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