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Lykke Li gives an Uptown Theater crowd a hypnotic gust of luxuriant darkness

The headliner spent much of her 70-minute set shrouded in shadows and cast in silhouettes. But it was all fitting.

Lykke Li drew more than 600 fans to the Uptown Theater on Saturday night, and she gave them a show that visually matched the temperament of her latest album, “I Never Learn,” which chronicles the painful dissolution of a long-term relationship.

Dressed in black and accompanied by a band loaded with keyboards and synthesizers, she opened with the album’s title track, a melancholic tale set to a bright melody and midtempo beat. The stage was lit accordingly: dark and shadowy. Six thin strips of translucent fabric hung from high above the stage added to the visual obscurity and the gothic, ethereal mood. During a few songs, such as “I Follow Rivers,” strobe lights flashed.

Li’s music is a hypnotic mix of ’60s girl pop — the sounds of the Ronettes and Shangri-Las — psychedelic folk and the day-glo pop of her native Sweden. The recorded versions are lush and orchestral; the live versions feel more organic and fervent.

Seven of the nine tracks on “I Never Learn” made the 15-song set list. She broke the mood by dropping in songs like “Dance, Dance, Dance,” a sunny, hip-shaking electro-pop tune, and “Jerome,” a dark pop-disco number with a strong Abba flavor, or by recasting songs, like “No Rest for the Wicked” and “Gunshot,” which were more percussive and grittier than the album version.

Li was a singer in motion throughout the set, prowling the stage, using the mic as a prop, whirling like Stevie Nicks. About halfway through, she told her audience she was going to cover her favorite American song, then unveiled a foreboding, bare-bones rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” If it wasn’t the best moment of the set, it was a close second.

She closed with more heartache laments, like “Never Gonna Love Again,” and more libidinous songs, like “Youth Knows No Pain” and “Get Some.” She returned for an encore that ended abruptly. After performing “Heart of Steel,” one of the lesser tunes on “I Never Learn,” she said goodnight. Then the PA started playing the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” and the lights went on, a sure sign this performance was over.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.


I Never Learn; Sadness Is A Blessing; Just Like a Dream; No Rest for the Wicked; Jerome; Dance, Dance, Dance; Little Bit; Sleeping Alone; I’m On Fire; Gunshot; I Follow Rivers; Never Gonna Love Again; Youth Knows No Pain; Get Some. Encore: Heart of Steel.