Concert Review: Jens Lekman and Geoffrey O’Connor at 6th and I Historic Synagogue (Washington, D.C.)

Photo Credit: Kristin Lidell

Geoffrey O’Connor (Australia), Jens Lekman (Sweden)
5 October 2011
6th and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, the season has just started to turn. D.C’s oppressive swamp-like humidity has finally broken and Washingtonians are just starting to break out jackets and sweaters. So a relaxed concert at the cozy and intimate 6th & I Historic Synagogue seemed the perfect way to kick off the season Wednesday night.

The night began with Geoffrey O’Connor, an Australian touring his debut solo album, Vanity Is Forever. O’Connor’s brand of somber synth-heavy pop suited the sit-down atmosphere of the venue, easing the audience into the show.

O’Connor’s performance wasn’t particularly animated. With the exception of one journey from the stage into the curved pews of the sanctuary where he sidled up to a bearded gentleman on the end of a row to sing, he stuck to one spot onstage. He intermittently showed off some genuine guitar skills (like with “Whatever Leads Me To You”), but at points his performance was so reliant on a synthesizer and drum machine that it was like watching a melancholy person sing karaoke.

What O’Connor may have lacked in performance, he made up for with odd self-depricating banter between songs.

“This next song’s called ‘Expensive,’ ” he said while introducing a song, “I’d like to dedicate it to my day job.” He then joked about being an accountant.

He described a song called “So Sorry” as his “most apologetic,” which he dedicated to “everyone in the room” before handing the stage over to Jens Lekman.

The charming Swede went right to work, kicking off his set with a solo acoustic rendition of the lovelorn “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name.” Lekman’s signature humorous lyrics. “I started working out when we broke up,” he sang. “I can do 100 pushups. I could probably do two if I was bored.”

But from that subdued opening, Lekman immediately made for an upswing in tempo with “I Saw Her at the Antiwar Demonstration” and “A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill” accompanied only by a drummer. The audience joined on the chorus of the latter, singing along with the “bum-pa bum-pa bum-pa bum-pa” parts when Lekman asked, “Can you feel the beat of my heart?”

Througout his performance, Lekman showed that he was equally capable of making onstage banter as he is of writing songs. Before playing a new song called “Waiting For Kirsten” he recounted spending this past summer in his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, when Kirsten Dunst came to town. Dunst apparently mentioned she liked his music in an interview once and Lekman was determined to “obsessively stalk her.” Unfortunately a lack of VIP line prevented Dunst from getting into the club where he had hoped to meet her.

Though it remained seated for the full concert, the audience happily bobbed their heads along with the music and gladly chuckled at Lekman’s banter jokes and lyrics. When he played some of his older songs, such as “Black Cab” and “The Opposite of Hallelujah,” many in the congregation softly sang along. At the end of his set, he sent everyone home after “Pocketful of Money” still snapping and singing, “I’ll come running with my heart on fire.”

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