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Live Review: Jens Lekman, Dianas, Emma Russack

19 March 2018 | 12:06 pm | Craig English

"'If I'd known there'd be people behind me tonight, I'd have shaved the back of my neck,' he dryly remarks."

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Emma Russack shuffles onto the stage in the centre of The Night Cat, armed only with an electric guitar and her brooding ruminations about life. As the numbers slowly begin to trickle in, she meekly informs the crowd that she's been "blacklisted by 90% of Melbourne's venues" for her song Everybody Cares due to it being a jab at Courtney Barnett's Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party. It's a sombre set, but Russack is warmly received.

Dianas inject a much-needed hit of vitality into the room with short spurts of jagged pop rock that are reminiscent of early Bloc Party. Watching those in the room who are dancing along try to keep up with the sudden tempo changes while trying not to look hilariously uncoordinated is a sight to behold. They lift a few tracks from their 2017 EP Leave Love and, by this time, the room reaches fever-pitch levels of anticipation.

Relying only on the grace he commands through his acoustic guitar to begin the set, Jens Lekman instantly pacifies the crowd into reverence with a gorgeous cover of The Lovin' Spoonful's Do You Believe In Magic. Asking this very question of the eager masses in the room earns him a hearty,"YES!" and, in one fell swoop, the crowd is eating out of his hand. As he dials back the intensity for To Know Your Mission from 2017's Life Will See You Now LP, the rest of the band make their way onto the stage and, on cue, an angelic falsetto from Lekman acts as the transition into the greatest song Belle & Sebastian never wrote, The Opposite Of Hallelujah. Lekman is a masterful storyteller. The deadpan delivery of his witty anecdotes elicits a few belly laughs from the crowd, but also serves to put him at ease. "If I'd known there'd be people behind me tonight, I'd have shaved the back of my neck," he dryly remarks. Your Arms Around Me wins him the most thunderous applause of the evening, after which he takes a moment to express gratitude given that this song was the springboard for his career and is closely tied to his love affair with Melbourne. The band take a bow with Lekman and then retire for the night, leaving him to close with the sweet ode A Postcard To Nina for an elated audience who all leave completely satisfied.