REVIEW: Lykke Li slightly sad, all sexy at the Fillmore

Lykke Li

Lykke Li performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2018. Photos: Daniel Lee.

SAN FRANCISCO — Lykke Li took the stage Wednesday night at The Fillmore and treated the sold-out crowd to a tight 16-song set. Centered on her latest studio album, So Sad So Sexy, her set also took a trip back through songs from her previous three records over the past 10 years.

The Swedish pop singer strutted to the microphone, struck an arm-over-her-face pose and the band launched into the title track and namesake of this tour. Clad in black vinyl and sporting slick blonde locks, she quickly established an aggressive but playful mood that fed the crowd and got fans singing along.

“No Rest for the Wicked” and “Just Like a Dream,” from 2014’s I Never Learn, followed. The spirited and imaginative “Jaguars in the Air” allowed for some rhythmic choreography between Lykke Li and her backup vocalist. Halfway through, she stopped to ask, “Do you wanna dance?” just before the band launched into a breakdown that closed out the tune in an extended jam. The heavy four-on-the-floor beat of “Two Nights” kept the energy high with a groove that could trace its family tree back to disco. Grabbing a set of drumsticks, she traded off some hi-hat work with the drummer. Li closed out the first half of the show with “Little Bit,” the massive hit that put her on the map in 2007.

Lykke Li

Lykke Li performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2018.

Lykke Li’s recordings tend to feature the breathier qualities of her voice, but live, her vocals are stronger and more confident—almost reminiscent of a young Stevie Nicks. She is clearly comfortable with her instrument.

“Just to prove my love to you, I’m going to play the synthesizer myself on this one,” she said as she started “Bad Woman.” “Deep End” followed, opening with beautiful vocal harmonies. And, although the band kept things feeling live and organic throughout, the chest-rumbling bass was a clear nod to electronica.

“Sexy Money Feelings Die” featured a dance lesson as Li taught the four hand signals (a la Prince’s “I Would Die 4U”) that correspond to the song’s chorus.

“Doesn’t it feel good to sing and dance at the same time? Do you feel sexy?” she added, clearly at home on the stage.

A detour into “Better Alone” for, as she put it, “the sad part,” featured lush vocal harmonies blending into the synth pad by the end of the song. The stage lighting briefly shifted to a black-and-white theme to punctuate the moment, but the melancholy was short-lived.

High-energy renditions of “Gunshot,” from I Never Learn and “I Follow Rivers,” off 2011’s Wounded Rhymes, closed out the show on a high note. Li grabbed the drumsticks again and did some more percussion work. The groove was infectious.

TiRon & Ayomari

TiRon & Ayomari perform at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2018

After a quick break with just enough time to ditch the vinyl for a sparkling black robe, Lykke Li returned to perform “Last Piece” and a cover of Usher’s “U Got It Bad.”

Los Angeles duo TiRon & Ayomari got things started by trading off rhymes in a style that blended rap and sung lines. The two called it “urban Americana,” adding R&B, folk and jazz to a hip-hop base. TiRon Jeffries (acoustic guitar) and Ayomari (Omari Allen) led three other musicians. With minimal trickery, the sound was more organic than the duo’s studio tracks and let their influences shine. Groovy, fun but also thought-provoking, TiRon & Ayomari weren’t afraid to cover some deeper ground in their lyricism.

“Politics as Usual” featured a reminder to get to the polls in a few weeks.

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