February 21, 2011
Although Swedish dance-pop artist Robyn has had some flirtations with mainstream success, it is her reputation as an outsider pop star that makes her so fascinating. Her dance-club ready tunes are not too far removed from what Lady Gaga or even Katy Perry (who she will be touring with this summer) are doing, just with far superior songwriting and performance. Listen to a song like Robyn’s “Dancing On Your Own” and then “California Gurls” and you’ll see what you mean. Another benefit of Robyn’s outsider status, you can see her in intimate, mid-sized venues like the Canopy Club in Urbana, IL and not have to pay a fortune to do it. The Canopy was packed for the day-after-Valentine’s show and Robyn’s hyper-enthusiastic performance made for an extraordinary night of music.
The night started off with a electro-pop vixen Natalia Kills, who played an extremely brief (just three songs) and mostly forgettable set. One point of interest, the whole time I thought she was adopting a trendy fake British accent, but it turns out she’s actually British. Who knew? Diamond Rings fared much better with his glittery synth-pop. I was reminded of Patrick Wolf by both his theatrical, glammy performance and his smooth, baritone vocals. Taking the stage in dauntless gold spandex / blue leather attire the young artist showered the audience with catchy tunes and gleeful dancing. His self-assured confidence was evident throughout the set and songs like “Show Me Your Stuff” and “All Yr Songs” were instantly appealing. I will be definitely checking out more of his stuff.
Robyn was a high-spirited ball of energy from her very first moments on stage, opening with “Time Machine”, one of the many bangers from her latest album Body Talk. Her stage-set up was like a miniature version of what I’d expect at a stadium show: fog machines, big pinwheel set pieces, crazy lighting and a uniformly dressed backing band (two on synths/vocals, two on drums). The dance-crazed set continued focused primarily on her latest album with “Fembot”, “Indestructible”, a cover of Teddybears’ “Cobrastyle” and her irresistible single “Dancing On Your Own” all being played early on.
Robyn has an effervescent stage presence, performing vigorous dance routines and making time for plenty of audience interaction (she also made time to peel and eat a banana on stage during her performance, uh… cool!). She did have appear to have some problems with her headset and at one point had to left the stage for an extended time to fix it, but it didn’t deter her from putting on a fantastic show. The biggest highlight for me was the infectious “Call Your Girlfriend”, a song which is quickly becoming my favorite of hers. The song’s bombastic beat, buzzing synths, and soaring chorus showcases the best of Robyn’s abilities and the track whipped the crowd into a bouncing frenzy.
The set ended with Body Talk Pt. 3 club banger, “Stars 4-Ever” which had the audience chanting the chorus, “You and me together / Stars forever” over and over as she briefly left the stage. We were treated with two encores the first of which included the blissful “Hang With Me” and her biggest hit to date, the string-laden “With Every Heartbeat”. She ended the night with three classics “U Should Know Better”, “Konichiwa Bitches” (which included a great snippet of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”) and “Show Me Love”. As a celebration of pop music, Robyn’s show was a complete triumph and although she may never get the mainstream success she deserves, when she’s on stage in front of a room packed with diehard fans, it’s easy to imagine that you’re watching the biggest pop star on the planet.
View more Robyn / Diamond Rings / Natalie Kills pictures after the jump. Click here for the entire set.