Last Thursday, two girls rushed to the front of the stage at the California Academy of Sciences, one visibly shaking with a mix of excitement and concern, her friend trying to calm her. They stood particularly near the stage in the thin crowd watching Geoffrey O’Connor, where otherwise only photographers dared to tread. After bouncing through a song, they turned to each other, then tentatively towards me. “This isn’t Jens Lekman yet, is it?” one asked. “No, not until 8:30,” I said, and she shook my shoulders as a sign of approval, before being pulled away by her friend, to skip off together back inside the Academy, presumably to have a few more cocktails and look at the penguins. (I can relate to the confusion, though, I’m a huge Kanye West fan, even though I have no idea what he looks or sounds like.)
O’Connor, of Australian band the Crayon Fields, in all likelihood took no notice. With his spindly body, pale skin, and (above all) accent, the confusion with fellow singer songwriter (and main attraction) Lekman probably happens all the time. But O’Connor seemed perfectly at home with an audience of polite people holding back. He switched from the mic to guitar over programmed beats, taking a moment here or there to lean against a speaker, striking a pose and looking directly into the cameras. During “Idle Lover” he left the stage, walking through the East Garden, to stand on a chair to finish his song, perched above a few party goers previously engaged in conversation. Above all he brought a certain nonplussed laconic humor. “This next song is my most apologetic,” he said. “It’s called ‘So Sorry.’” When he finished, the once reserved crowd reenacted the land grab scene from Far and Away (1992).
Lekman was unimposingly charming, able to make stage banter seem like choice b-sides and unfinished lyrics. Introducing “Waiting for Kirsten,” a new song off his great An Argument with Myself EP, the raconteur said, “The thing about Kirsten Dunst is, she said in an interview once that she liked my music...and I’ve been trying to not be too impressed by that.” The song details the actress’s failure to get into a club in Lekman’s homeland of Sweden. “In Gothenberg they don’t have VIP lines,” the chorus says, and Lekman went on to explain that “you won’t get in just because you have the right clothes, or a lot of money, or you made out with Spider-Man.” After a set of new material alongside older favorites, including a softer version of “Black Cab” and “The Opposite of Hallelujah” nicely mixed with a bit of The Chairmen of the Board’s “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” Lekman immediately went into two short encores, since he said the crowd was too thick to get offstage. When he finally did step down, a few excited fans made an arch with their arms for him to pass through. He went around.
Photo by Stephen Ho.