Lykke Li at Camden Roundhouse, 01/11/11

Before Lykke Li’s grand entrance, bouts of smoke fill the Roundhouse stage to the tranquil close of “I Know Places”, its swelled pangs of guitar fading out against the syncopated drum beat that is the pulse of Wounded Rhymes. This is the calm before the storm as Li surges onto stage with “Jerome”, performed with a drama and electricity it doesn’t have on the album where it sits mid-tempo and mid-feeling. On paper it’s an unlikely opener for the last UK installment of Li’s tour but the song’s emotionally charged performance led by a hair whipping, drum-smashing Li is what really makes “Jerome” come alive. The song’s hybridity, sharing the tortured vigour of “Youth Knows No Pain” and the haunting sobriety of “Love Out of Lust”, also makes it an appropriate précis for what is to come: a repertoire of songs that pour from an open and healing wound; wounded rhymes both loud and quiet (‘silent cries’), staged and spontaneous, revealing and contained.

Dressed in all black and kohl-heavy under the eyes, Li looks like a pretty half-ghost under the stage light ­­– not an unsuitable look the night after Halloween. For all her sombre chic, Li is a truly energetic performer. She oozes confidence as she swings the mic like a rock star and occasionally pounds the drum set next to her, carried away by and into the hypnotism of her music. Li is constantly busy on stage. In fact, she doesn’t stop moving, making some interesting shapes; throwing her body back to “I Follow Rivers”, rocking out to “Rich Kids Blues” and suggestively swinging her hips to “Get Some”, beckoning some woos from her hipster audience on the lyrics, ‘I’m your prostitute, you gon’ get some.’

Though an assured performer, Li appears to be a somewhat withdrawn character and isn’t all that talkative. Of course Li very politely goes through the motions for her fans: a Hello London, a courteous Thank You here and there and a This Is For You before her last song, “Unrequited Love”. If the lyrics of “Dance Dance Dance” are anything to go by (‘dance, dance, dance, words can never answer for what you do’/‘my hips they lie ‘cause in reality, I’m shy shy shy’) Li is most adventurous in her music, someone who sings what she doesn’t speak. Maybe it’s for this reason that Li’s music sounds somehow rebellious live, especially “Youth Knows No Pain” – the latter part of which was performed through a megaphone over a sample taken from Kanye West’s “Power”, a heaving undercurrent that plumped and amplified the adolescent tribal beat of Li’s song.

Like Li’s performance of “Youth Knows No Pain” with its brilliantly out of the blue Kanye sample, the gig as a whole was not what I expected; I predicted something altogether less audacious, quieter, more stripped back. While there were a few tender moments when it was just the huskiness of Li’s gorgeous voice and the music – as with “I Know Places”, “Silent My Song” and “Unrequited Love” – it was, for the most part, an electric, emotionally charged production with a true star at its helm.


The above article was also published in November 2011 on

One Response to “Lykke Li at Camden Roundhouse, 01/11/11”
  1. The0 says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article! Always well written, and with such depth and texture.

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