REVIEW: Tove Styrke slays with ‘Sway’ at Cafe Du Nord

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Tove Styrke

Tove Styrke performs at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2018. Photos: Steve Carlson.

SAN FRANCISCO — Singer-songwriter Tove Styrke made a convincing argument Wednesday at Cafe Du Nord that she’s a significant player in the pop landscape, even on a night when she wasn’t the best-known Swedish pop artist playing in the city. Touring in support of her third album, Sway, Styrke sold out the small, sweaty club and played to fans singing along to most every word and moving in unison with the artist.

Tove Styrke opened with an older cut, the Reggaeton-tinged “Borderline.” She took the stage wearing a a shiny black outfit and a wide-brimmed hat with her name in reflective letters on the underside of the brim. The outfit coordinated with her two multi-instrumentalists, who wore shiny black hats and Sway-inspired shirts. On Sway cut “Mistakes,” her modulated vocals, which had a multiplying effect as if she was backed by a choir, created a sense of floating above the dreamy melody.

“Does anybody remember this one,” Tove Styrke asked before kicking into the thumping banger “Ego,” another song from 2015’s Kiddo. She may have had a feeling by that point that the question was rhetorical. The stage was was decorated with a few hundred LED roses, which flashed colors in tune with the song. The effect was both grand and intimate at the same time.

Following “On a Level” and a cover of Lorde’s “Liability,” on which fans basically sang the first verse for Styrke, she slowed down the pace somewhat for “I Lied” and “On the Low.” The former was a mid tempo cut, yet Tove Styrke still danced in double-time. On the latter, fans again out-sang the artist. This caused her to be taken aback: “You guys,” she said, visibly blushing, as the synthetic flowers sparkled shades of a brilliant blue.

She finished off her set with a stream of bangers like “Good Vibes,” “Endless” and “Changed My Mind.” During “Say My Name” she hopped down from the stage to dance while fans encircled her. After concluding with the melodic “Sway,” she returned for a two-song encore of “Been There Done That,” a soft, fingerpicked guitar ballad, and party anthem “Number One.”

Sixteen-year-old singer songwriter Jamie Lou Stenzel, better known as Au/Ra, opened the concert with a set of club jams, starting with “Emoji” and “Concrete Jungle.” The latter cut started off like it might end up being an acoustic ballad, but it, too ended up as a dance tune. Au/Ra introduced “Junk Food” as being “100 percent about junk food and not about relationships.” The next song, “Drake,” came with a funny story about how she and Drake both play “Fortnite,” but how he ignored her attempt to add him as a friend on the Playstation console. “He must have been on vacation,” she sang. Most interestingly, she blended lyrics from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” into her song “Outsiders.”

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