Robyn: Live at Radio City Music Hall (February 5, 2011) (Concert Review)
Photo courtesy of WireImage.
As the strobe lights began to flicker faster and faster to their dizzying, epilepsy-inducing speed, the deafening sound of a rocket touching down to Earth roared into the speakers of Radio City Music Hall on Saturday night.
And for the third time in less than a year, I found myself smack dab in the middle of Robyn‘s crash landing onto American shores for her third major headlining North American tour.
But before Robyn’s performance on Saturday night, resident bad ass bitch Natalia Kills took to the stage to open the showcase promptly at 8 PM.
Sporting a darling new shorter do, the weapon-wielding vixen whirled through a breakneck series of tracks from her long awaited debut album The Perfectionist, including â€œLove Is A Suicideâ€ and â€œWonderland.â€
To my great delight, Kills opened her set with a partial performance of her incredible acoustic take on lead single, â€œMirrors,â€ which was just as gorgeous as the Cherrytree House Live session. (Martin, I’m still waiting for the sheet music for this one!)
And while I’ve said this each time I’ve seen her live, I really do believe she’s only improved with each show. She’s more confident than ever. Now unleash the album, bitch!
Then Diamond Rings took to the stage, andâ€¦well, I’d rather not discuss the experience. Or the American Apparel gold lamÃ© leggings. Well–alright, fine: Un-listenable, intolerable. Absolutely devoid of entertainment value. Like a bad Bowie impersonation laid on top of a middling-to-hot bass beat. Come on Kills, couldn’t you just come back on stage for a few more songs? But seriously…no.
At around 9:30, Robyn finally strolled out onto the stage onto the stage of Radio City Music Hall–which she would later announce as the largest venue she’s ever performed–to the loud cheers and screams of a cast of colorful characters.
Is that the right phrase? Colorful characters? I mean, okay–first of all: It was all gays. That’s kind a given–it’s a Robyn show. As Gawker‘s Richard Lawson tweeted that night: “If Facebook status updates are any indication, the Robyn concert is gay people’s Woodstock.”
And oh, how right he was. The flowing, ‘earthy’ garbs! The leather and studs! The eight-foot tall drag queens decked out in full Renaissance attire and powdered wigs! So much attitude, so many lisps whipping through the wind riding through the air attached to some snarky side comment. Never one to be described as a subtle bunch, the New York City glitterati brought it. Hard.
Being that I’ve now experienced Robyn thrice in less than a year, little has changed since The All Hearts Tour and her show in November: Same pinwheels whirling on stage, same mad scientist band members, same bass-heavy breakdowns, and (mostly) the same song selections–albeit with brand new inclusions from the third installment of the Body Talk series. (But no banana munching during “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do”! Still bitter about it.)
Robyn worked her way through 18 of her songs on Saturday night, from her trademark sad disco stompers (“Dancing On My Own,” “The Girl And The Robot,” “With Every Heartbeat”), to Body Talk staples (“Hang With Me,” “Indestructible”) to her bossier crowd pleasers (“Dancehall Queen,” “Konichiwa Bitches”) and of course, a final, gorgeous acoustic take on her major 1997 smash hit single, “Show Me Love” (the version mixed with a touch of ABBA‘s “Dancing Queen”) to wrap up her second encore.
Throughout her set, the Swede-pop chanteuse wildly bounded back and forth across the stage in a massive pair of platform Timberland sneakers and white and green leggings, all the while flailing her arms in that adorably unique manner only Robyn can successfully pull off without looking like a fool.
In fact, she was a complete goofball throughout the night, perhaps more than any night I’ve witnessed her perform thus far: Shaking and shimmying, fist pumping, and wildly jumping up and down (so much so that she ended up taking a brief spill during “Love Kills”–but not to worry, she was back up and bouncing within seconds!)
Then again, she had reason to celebrate, as tonight marked a new personal career milestone: “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever pulled myself…ever!” she announced victoriously during her first encore, throwing her hands in the air triumphantly as the crowd whistled and yelled.
At long last, Robyn was headlining in front of a crowd of over 5,000 audience members–a vastly deserved and long overdue achievement.
The singer was completely and utterly thrilled–so much so that it seemed as though she was attempting to personally thank everyone in attendance, charging up the stairs on either side of the mezzanine and holding hands with several flailing fairies and fan-girls waiting in earnest at either side of the balcony at two points during the night.
Yet while Robyn commanded most of my attention that night, it was the commentary offered by the larger gentleman seated directly behind me that truly took the experience to the next level of amazeballs.
Blessed/cursed with a shrill, piercing voice recalling that of Ross Mathews (of Chelsea Lately panelist fame), the emotionally overcome man was at the ready with supportive, sassy words of encouragement to yell at the Swedish chanteuse all night long: Whether she was grinding her hips against the beat of “Dancehall Queen” (“POP THAT PUSSY, BITCH!”), shimmying her shoulders to “Fembot” (“SHAKE THEM TITTIES, GIRL!”), or weaving her arms together during “Dancing On My Own” (“SNAKE ARMS. SNAKE ARMS. WORK IT. UH!”), Robyn’s unofficial cheerleader was on the job.
Once “Love Kills” came booming into the speakers, he simply couldn’t go on any further. “I CAN’T. I CAN’T!” he shrieked, his hands madly fluttering to his heart, then into the air, then to his face, and back again to his heart.
By the end of the night, I really couldn’t tell what hurt more: My feet from the dancing or my stomach from the laughing. Either way, it was everything I wanted.
Once again, Robyn staged an incredible show. The only drawback of this latest performance was its lack of older tracks on the set-list. (I would have loved to hear “Be Mine,” “Handle Me” or “Who’s That Girl?” one more time!)
Then again, she’s never been one to fuss much about the past. “I don’t like romanticizing about the future, and I don’t like being romantic about the past, either. I think that the present time is what’s most interesting,” she recently told Time Out New York. Accordingly, the show’s set-list included a healthy sampling of her most recent material to date.
Set-list aside, Robyn proved (once again) exactly why she’s truly one of the best live pop acts in the game right now. Solid vocals, gobs of stage presence, and a raw performance energy evocative of Like A Virgin-era Madonna.
There’s a reason I’ve made the effort to catch her at every opportunity possible: Robyn puts out incredible pop, but provides an even more incredible show. In the absence of a single outfit change, video interlude, or even an elaborate set, she is simply enough.
Setlist (courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan):
Cobrastyle (Teddybears cover)
Dancing On My Own
We Dance to the Beat and Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do (Mash Up)
The Girl and the Robot
Call Your Girlfriend
Stars 4 Ever
Get Myself Together
Dance Hall Queen
Hang With Me
With Every Heartbeat
U Should Know Better
Dancing Queen Intro (ABBA cover)
Show Me Love