There was an unusually subdued and quiet atmosphere at NASA for Lisa Ekdahl’s concert. This was her third show in Iceland in two years and, much like on previous occasions, she had sold out the venue. This particular venue, however, proved to be ill-fitting for the performance. NASA, usually associated with the rowdier type of concerts, simply does not have the allure to do justice to a low-key, sit-down event. In certain parts of the auditorium you could hear the quiet hum of the A/C over Ekdahl’s delicate delivery; a sound that added nothing positive to the whole production.
The bartenders were rude and hardly up to the task of tending to an audience that was at least 20 years older than their usual clientele, and with a troublesome penchant for a glass of wine instead of the rock crowd’s all-round demand for beer. While these transgressions would hardly be noticeable at a rock show, they were blatantly evident under these circumstances. But there was more to this show than the unfortunate venue selection which, in all fairness, can probably be blamed on the lack of a better alternative in Reykjavík.
Lisa Ekdahl is a charismatic performer. Her unusual, soft, but somehow gnarly voice and her ability to write quirky little folk-pop tunes about lost love and broken hearts, had the audience captivated for the duration of the show. She has a very intimate stage persona, and obviously takes great joy in giving back to the audience. Between songs, she carried on conversations with the audience in Swedish with a thick Stockholm accent, which fortunately is easily intelligible for Icelanders; and she did her best to make everyone feel welcome at her show, although at times she took her act of innocence a bit too far, coming off as naïve, rather than sincere.
Joined on stage by a talented and multi-dimensional sidekick, whom she introduced as Blomdahl (has there ever been a more Swedish name?), the pair managed to play about eight different instruments between them. This compact line-up created a feeling of attachment that is not easily replicated with a bigger band.
Before taking a short intermission about eight songs into the show, Ekdahl mostly played material from her two latest albums, Olyckssyster and Pärlor av Glas, with the exception of Du Sålde Våran Hjärta. After returning to the stage, she delivered some of her more popular material from her self-titled debut album, with Benen I Kors and Öppna Upp Ditt Fönster receiving enthusiastic applause from the audience.
The loudest ovation was kept for her biggest hit, Vem Vet, which Ekdahl admitted was the only one of her songs she has ever heard people whistle in the streets. Blomdahl was quick to seize the opportunity and changed the arrangement of the song to include his own whistling solo, a performance that received a hearty laugh from both audience and Ekdahl alike.
It is easy to like Lisa Ekdahl, as a performer and as a person, and I really hope she finds the time to play in Iceland again soon, but hopefully not at NASA.