MUSIC | Lykke Li cuts loose at the Varsity

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Swedish chanteuse Lykke Li has a pretty bare touring schedule this winter. She is generally staying close to the coasts except to attend the occasional festival. Lucky for Minneapolitans though, she made a Midwestern stop at the Varsity Theater on February 8. Though ticket prices were high due to Li’s rapid rise in popularity, the show still managed to sell out—in part because the age limit was lowered to 15.

Li’s recent album, Youth Novels, is a coy pop record that showcases the singer’s guileless soprano over danceable beats. It’s a well-produced if somewhat restrained effort, so it came as somewhat of a surprise to see how much Li cut loose for the show. Banging sporadically on a single high hat, she danced wildly across the stage, her baggy dress swaying around her like a black cloud. This seemed incongruous for a singer who, in the lyrics of her hit “Dance Dance Dance,” calls herself “shy shy shy,” someone who “trip[s] on [her] feet” while trying to cut a rug. Still, before long Li had nearly the entire joint shaking along with her.

In addition to her Youth Novels material, Li also performed a number of spirited covers, including Kings of Leon’s “Knocked Up” (which she dedicated to anyone in the crowd who was pregnant) and Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli.” Perhaps her most successful cover, though, was Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick it,” in which she not only rapped but also improvised the “do-do-do’s” from the song’s sample of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”

After an hour-long set, Li left the stage—returning for a rousing three-song encore that included “Time Flies” and “Tonight” in addition to the aforementioned Tribe cover. Fans walked out of the theater a bit wild-eyed when things finally finished. After the critical success of Youth Novels I think everyone expected a good show—I just don’t think they expected anything quite so raucous.

Jon Behm (jonbehm@gmail.com) is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.