Oakland’s Fox Theatre on Wednesday could best be described as an oasis, as an escape, in spite of a city thrown into turmoil. Occupy Oakland has been facing weeks of violent police attrition, and the global mood is one of change. The show by First Aid Kit and headliner Lykke Li was a welcoming reminder that no matter how bad things get around us, there is still the beauty, the creativity, of music.
First Aid Kit was the night’s opener, and is composed of two Swedish sisters, Johanna and Klara SÃ¶derberg. Younger sister Klara is the lead singer of the band and the acoustic guitarist, with Johanna as backup vocalist and keyboardist. Together, First Aid Kit are a new brand of folk, marked by Klara’s soaring voice and her manner of delivering haunting soliloquies. “Ghost Town” is an example of this, and was a highlight of the duo’s set, with Klara illuminated, entrancingly, by a beauteous blue stage light. Following their jovial and poetic performance, the crowd waited in expectation for Lykke Li.
Swedish singer Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson, or Lykke Li, released her debut album Youth Novels in 2008. With songs composed predominantly of percussion and bass beats, electronica, and just a gentle touch of reggaeton influence, Lykke Li delivered a novel brand of fem-pop with this album. Standout songs like “Little Bit”, “I’m Good, I’m Gone”, and “Breaking It Up” are wrenchingly honest, sensual, and irresistibly energetic.
To introduce Lykke Li and band on Wednesday, a visual thunderstorm was created: crashing drum beats to replicate thunder, and blinding white stage lights that cut through the smoke machine’s fog like lightning. Mystically and dramatically, Lykke Li appeared from the shadows. Her whole show would beguile the crowd in this manner — it was a spectacle of distraction and illusion. There was a clear black and white dichotomy to her performance, a declaration of man and woman, good and evil; this was evident in her black flowing garb, the scintillating white strobe lights, and the hanging black fabric that seemed to make the stage extend into a horizontal infinity. Lykke Li and band eerily resembled a group of nymphs playing amongst gnarled bark trees in the midst of a foggy night, belting out hits such as “I’m Good, I’m Gone” and “I Follow Rivers”.
Lykke Li’s rendition of “I Know Places” was one of the set’s highlights. Instead of playing on an acoustic guitar, as used in the song’s recorded track, Lykke Li strummed on a xylophone, creating a stripped down, vulnerable, and simplistic version of the original. It was just her and the stage lights, expressing all her layers of depth, solitude, and solemnity. The lively “Little Bit” followed, again luring the crowd into a dancing mood. After the set’s last track, “Get Some”, the crowd erupted into generous applause, and Lykke Li and band returned for an encore of “Unrequited Love”. This final part of her performance exemplified what Lykke Li does best, and what makes her shows such an aesthetically and emotionally jarring experience: she beautifully composes the tremors and motions of an individual’s honesty, pain, and wisdom in song.
I’m Good, I’m Gone
Sadness is a Blessing
I Follow Rivers
Dance, Dance, Dance
I Know Places
Love Out of Lust
Rich Kid Blues
Until We Bleed
Youth Knows No Pain