Live Review: Lykke Li

El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, 9th March

[a]Lykke Li[/a] is back in LA, the town where she wrote her big new album, holed up in a wood cabin up a steep hill without a car. This time, though, she’s at the El Rey Theatre, her name in lights outside, [a]Juliette Lewis[/a] sashaying through the doors in a glimmering white suit at the last minute, a huge queue of girls with beautiful long hair and black eyeliner outside the toilet, screaming that the show is beginning before they’ve begun. “We have to pee, don’t sing yet, don’t sing!” shouts one. “Wipe and go, wipe and go!” screams another. All the weird pretty girls in LA have come to see Scandinavia’s darkest export, dressed in a black leather cape that makes her look like a bat when she stretches her arms out wide.

She doesn’t smile, [a]Lykke Li[/a]. This show is the opposite of an Adele gig. Our Adele would be all funny banter and giggling in between belters. This is darkly lit, intense drums, Lykke herself pointing drumsticks at the audience like a conductor, then bashing her cymbal and her own drum with it. (There is an actual drummer in her five-piece band, too. She doesn’t introduce any of them. She doesn’t do cheesy, or chatty, except to goad the VIPs on the balcony into dancing a little more, reminding us that we only have one life, and we should go for it tonight.)

She sings, she sashays, she stares. And then she gets back into dancing with herself, dancing herself into the floor, touching herself in her witchy black leathers, giving a mean look at us and now pointing those drumsticks as if she were a very strict teacher and we were all in for a sexy kind of double detention.

“Yeah, I know your hands will clap”, she sings, ominously, on show-opener ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’, and she’s right. ‘I Follow Rivers’ sounds amazing with a live band pulsing behind her voice. And then she asks us if we know a band called [a]The Big Pink[/a], “’cos I think I’m gonna do a little cover”, and out comes a haunting version of ‘Velvet’, all unplugged and beautiful. Really beautiful.

In her song ‘Paris Blue’, when she sings the line about her thoughts drifting towards Malibu, there is a big cheer from the audience – some local Malibu fans in the house tonight. But this show is about as far from that sunny Baywatch beach as you can get. And then she finishes with ‘Get Some’, her anthem for malevolent womanhood, to massive stomping applause, and in a puff of smoke, our dark lady of the canyon is suddenly gone.

Sophie Heawood