Gregarious Swedish pop artist Robyn definitely was not dancing on her own at Radio City on Saturday, February 5th. In fact, she was dancing with a sold out venue.
My night began with meeting my friend Kristen at Penn. We ate some pizza then took the C train to Radio City Music Hall. The entrance for ticket holders was on 51st. I had been to plenty of shows in my ::cough:: still young ::cough:: lifetime but not many required a serious pat-down. For this concert, however, I was asked to remove everything from my jacket and had a fairly in-depth body scan. The tin foil wrapping to my mint chocolate chip ice cream-flavored bubblegum (don’t hate, it’s IN-F*CKING-CREDIBLE) set off the security wand thing-a-ma-jigs. At least it wasn’t as uncomfortable as my pat-down at Jones Beach theater. The security guy at that venue pulled my shirt up, grabbed my belt with one hand, looked down and quickly grazed my junk with the other hand. I probably could have sued but it’s just so awkward to say, “he touched me there!” that I avoided any further conflict. Any-who, I digress.
I bought myself a tee I had seen from Robyn’s online store in Radio City’s lobby (see pic above). It was a whopping $30, but it would end up costing just about as much if I had it shipped from the UK + online tax. Contented and excited, Kristen and I decided to take our seats. Even though we weren’t mad early (it was past 7 PM and the opening acts commenced somewhere between 8 and 8:30 PM), the place looked desolate and empty. Most people were already drinking something. The people with cocktails and fruity drinks had glow stick stirrers. I must admit I was a little jealous, even if that’s super childish. But if you had seen them you’d want one too because they’re just darn cool. It’s like going to a block party or club or something. As the place began to fill a little we chit-chat. Finally the first opener, Natalia Kills, began.
This beautiful rising British pop sensation warmed up the audience nicely with a down tempo keyboard rendition of “Mirrors.” Then two female back-up dancers appeared in skintight bodysuits and felt her up as she performed the rest of her set. The highlights of this taut but “hawt” hip-gyrating showcase were “Wonderland,” “Love is Suicide,” and the single version of “Mirrors.”
Following her came Diamond Rings (John O’Regan), a Canadian indie rocker, in a bright pink sleeveless shirt, purple jacket, and tight gold pants. This had glam rock inspiration written all over it. I was not mistaken. His music is as flamboyant and jocular as his personality. A one-man show, playing keyboards, electronic drums, and guitar all on his own (not all at once, obviously- but by looping), he happily exclaimed that his mother was there watching. The highlights of his performance were “Wait & See,” “You & Me,” and “You Oughta Know.” The crowd finally filled in after the opening acts were done.
Robyn hit the stage with a space-age themed introduction. She opened with the Max Martin co-written and produced track, “Time Machine.” She followed this with her fun but light dance-rap song, “Fembot.” Then came her fantastic cover of Teddybear’s “Cobrastyle.” It was highly amusing to watch the audience react to this track. There were plenty of cheers when it started. The crowd’s giddiness continued at a slow boil throughout the starting verse. By the time Robyn reached the line, “My style is da bomb-diddi-bomb, di-dang, di-dang, diggi diggi!” everybody went INSAAAAANE. It was like she flipped on some switch or something. The room lit up with a level of excitement I didn’t expect. Once the verse came back the audience reversed into the slow boil. Each chorus ignited an outburst. It was humorous but delightful; a perfect lead-in for her Grammy nominated “Dancing On My Own.”
Judging from the sheer volume of voices, “Dancing On My Own” probably got the biggest sing-along. You might think that using this hit so early in the night would make it hard for her to keep momentum, but being a long-time fan I knew she would make it out just fine. One of Robyn’s most endearing traits is her ability to channel the enthusiasm of the audience and give it right back. She dances and jumps around just as much as her fans. Her silly but excitable dance moves only raise the morale of everybody in the room. From my vantage in the back of the orchestra (Row L) it looked as if everybody was jumping along with her, including the fans in the mezzanine above me. At one point I feared it could come crashing down. She knew “Dancing On My Own” would cement the connection between her and the audience and it was wisely timed because she followed it with a medley of her two more experimental tracks, “We Dance to the Beat” and “Don’t F*cking Tell Me What to Do.” These club friendly euro-beat songs are definitely free form expressions of what direction she aims to go musically. True Robyn and dance/electronica fans appreciate these tracks but they aren’t widely popular. She ended this musical non sequitur with “Love Kills.” At this point Robyn proceeded to walk up to the mezzanine stage left for some fan handshakes and hugs.
The next track on her setlist was the Röyksopp collaboration, “The Girl and the Robot.” She used this time to subtly acknowledge her tour band. She walked up to each musician, danced around them, and eventually ended up sitting on the drums before returning to her usual strut around the stage. At the conclusion to the song Robyn took an impromptu dance break from her singing with a false start to her newest single “Indestructible.” And just as she claims in the chorus, “this [was] hardcore.” She really was indestructible at that point because the audience went even more wild. Robyn had only has two songs left in this set. The energy, however, was not slowing down at all. She concluded with “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Stars 4-Ever.”
She left the stage with her audience pleading for more. Her encore started with the tracks “Get Myself Together,” and “Dancehall Queen.” They’re bubbly, sugar-coated joy but not as enjoyable as the songs she followed with: “Hang With Me” and “With Every Heartbeat.” Robyn took yet another detour into her audience by diving in for a giant hug with the mezzanine stage right at the start of “Hang With Me,” an Abba-esque bubblegum pop pleasure. Upon finishing she exclaimed, “New York! Thank you so much for having us back. This is the biggest crowd I have pulled myself,” [Insert long "Aww" moment here]. And to show even more appreciation, she really sang her soul out to “With Every Heartbeat,” the leading single to her previous self-titled album. She then left the stage again, but the audience wasn’t having it. They wanted even more. Everybody stayed standing up, chanting her name and hooting and hollering until she came back for a second encore.
There are very few shows that I have personally been to where the artist provided a second encore, let alone one comprised of four songs. The band came out first, teasing all of us in the crowd while we waited for Robyn’s return. She began her final set with a slowed-down version of her Snoop Dogg duet “U Should Know Better.” The fan favorite “Konichiwa Bitches” came next, to which everyone rocked out. Then came a wonderful surprise- Robyn sang a partial-cover of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” which she mashed-up into her 1997 top-ten hit “Show Me Love.” This made for the perfect ending to a fantastically engaging show. Even though she did not perform one of my favorites, “Handle Me,” I could not have been a happier fan.