LOS ANGELES — Heartbreak and sadness sounds better when it’s imported from Sweden. At least, that was my takeaway when I caught Lykke Li at the Roxy Theatre on Sunday. The 28-year-old songstress performed an intimate set list -- from “Youth Novel” to cuts from her recently released third studio album, I Never Learn -- as part of StubHub’s “Next Stage” concert series.
And it was for a good cause, too, benefitting the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which helps music programs at Los Angeles-area schools.
Dressed in all black under a metallic-reptilian textured overcoat, Lykke Li looked almost lonesome as she hit the stage but once she opened her mouth and began to sing, her voice filled the room. And though her music may be melancholy at times, the singer was anything but with her fans. Confident, engaged and eager to express in her distinctive way how it feels to be sad, numb or happy, Lykke Li played to the crowd with a set that included many old favorites as well as new tunes.
While most tours tend to showcase songs from a singer’s current album, Li’s show was a tug-o-war of emotion, bouncing from her more dance friendly “Wounded Rhymes” to the soulful ballads from the I Never Learn album. Li's set alternated between highs and lows, as if mimicking the ups and downs of a typical relationship. She opened with her newest album's title track, a tune that suggests that she -- like some of us -- can never seem to learn from past mistakes. We just keep doing what we want -- even when it hurts.
By the show's mid-point, Li had brought the room to a near hush. Singing I Never Learn tracks “Gunshot,” “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone” and “Sleeping Alone,” Li reflected on the often painful anxiety of a breakup. Not content to leave the audience sad, though, the singer finished with a burst of energy and sweet bliss. “I Follow Rivers,” “Rich Kids,” “Youth Knows No Pain,” and “Get Some” followed in quick succession. She must have felt how much the crowd wanted to dance because she pulled out those fan-favorites from her previous album.
And Li managed to keep the songs fresh by ending "Rich Kids" with hypnotic chants sampled from Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” intro, segueing into Kanye West’s “Send It Up” for a remix of “Youth Knows No Pain.”
Returning for her encore, Lykke Li closed with “Sadness Is a Blessing” a song that embraces the realization that sadness is something we just have to live with.
"I Never Learn"
"Love Out of Lust"
"Just Like A Dream"
"Never Gonna Love Again"
"Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone"
"I Follow Rivers"
"Youth Knows No Pain"
"Sadness Is a Blessing"