Sometimes massive stars don’t seem real onstage. You can be clinging to the barrier, looking up at this person from five feet away, but maybe they’re too glamorous, or too distant in their performance style, or you’re too busy getting your ribs slowly turned to pulp by surging rabid fans to properly process the physical reality of the musician in your immediate three-dimensional universe.
Not so with Robyn.
Robyn is the living embodiment of the joy of movement made human, a dancing twisting exuberant whirlwind of light wrapped in five feet, three inches of pint-sized Swedish popstar. Even more incredible: while keeping up her amazing dancing and boundless, infectious freedom in motion, she is singing with powerhouse force, maintaining all the vocal strength, flexibility and beauty of her studio work. It’s impossible not to perceive her full existence in front of you. Her athleticism reminds you how much dancing and exercising she must do, in order to be so in shape (at an ageless 33) that she can belt out her songs in mid-disco frenzy, punching the air and shimmying her way back and forth across the stage. Her muscles, her lung power, the sweat on her forehead—to see Robyn perform is to enter into an empathic meld, as she sings the feelings out of our hearts, matching the rightness of the words and pureness of the tone with precisely the physical manifestation of those experiences. The audience can’t help but give themselves over to her, scream for more, dance in exultant relief and catharsis.
No wonder the damn album was called Body Talk. It’s a special kind of communication between dance, music and emotions, and nobody does it better than Robyn.
She kicked off the Saturday, Nov. 3 show in Berlin (the last one of this tour) with a stunning light display and a frenzied bass-heavy crescendo like a spaceship taking off, which morphed into “We Dance To The Beat,” to rapturous reactions from the crowd. Wearing a typically funky ensemble of eclectic pieces, Robyn was radiant in her matchless individuality and spirit. Like every performance I’ve ever seen of hers, whether for TV, a concert or a music video, she danced to the max, uninhibited like a child just discovering the delight of movement, but with the skill of a pro and a giddy defiance like it was the last time she would ever get the chance.
She delivered a mixed setlist from Body Talk, Robyn and earlier albums. The mood was particularly high for me on “Indestructible,” “Dancing On My Own” and “Hang With Me,” as well as “With Every Heartbeat,” which she used to close out the main set before encores—a song truly made for transcendent audience participation. The Columbiahalle absolutely echoed with the uplifting unison of voices chanting out, “And it hurts with every heartbeat,” over and over again until ending in blissed-out triumph. That’s the magic of Robyn—she has the ability to take painful, universal thematic material, wring out these experiences through irresistible dance beats, and extract nothing less than ecstatic love for life and strength, in herself and her listeners.
During the two encores, she covered ground ranging from her massive hit “Call Your Girlfriend” (the hall erupted in approval) to her 1997 classic “Show Me Love,” the very last track of the night, sung without musical frills or distractions, simply showcasing her beautiful voice and talent, and ending the night on a very satisfying, peaceful note.
Unsurprisingly, a star musicmaker like Robyn also has some pretty rad taste in other artists, and brought along an excellent opening electropop band with female-male vocals, Summer Camp, as well as an avant-garde performance artist singer-contortionist duo, Zhala! I’ll be checking out more of Summer Camp’s music for sure.
Photos (Copyright Caitlin Hardee, Nomad News):