Robyn at First Avenue, 2/13/11

February 13, 2011
First Avenue, Minneapolis

First Avenue was sweltering hot. Even before pixie-haired Swedish songstress Robyn took the stage, the audience was sweating, stirring about with eagerness as members swayed to openers Natalia Kills and Diamond Rings.

Robyn appeared after the members of her four-piece band, two keyboardists, and two drummers -- all clad in white jumpsuits -- took their places. It was clear from the first chorus of "Time Machine" that pint-sized pop star was going to deliver a show sans the diva trappings, with her frugal stage (some plastic pinwheels, some flashing lights) and spandex outfit (no glitter, no shoulder pads).

The crowd could not have loved her more. Fans waved homemade valentines and screamed themselves hoarse in glee as her set unfolded mash-up style, as one song bled into another. She paused dramatically after her third song, "Cobrastyle," catching her breath in the dimmed lights, and as an audience, we were forced to acknowledge that in the age of Gaga-led theatrics -- where dance-beat pop music is built first out of a stage set and second out of the sound -- Robyn is, in fact, dancing on her own.

Lyrically, Robyn makes good use of her booty-shaking beats; her chorus lines are far from empty, as songs like the addictive "Indestructible" have an honest, sensitive theme for the hopeful romantic, while others, like "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do" and "U Should Know Better" are attitude anthems for an agitated, stir-crazy youth nation that only wants to dance, dance, dance.

Robyn at First Avenue, 2/13/11
Robyn at First Avenue, 2/13/11
Photos by Denis Jeong Plaster

And without the spectacular-spectacular that other pop stars in the same ranks as Robyn rely on for much of their live shows, Robyn's performance had a purity to it that isn't often traceable. Her white-blonde hair was plastered to her head and she was dripping in sweat, but she joyously floated around the stage in a combination of sexy choreography and improvised moves, and when she smiled at the audience, it was her real smile. She was loving Minneapolis just as much as it loved her -- and if it wasn't obvious during her first set, it was definitely obvious in her encore, as Robyn beamed at the audience.

"Minneapolis! You've been the best crowd on this tour so far," said Robyn, shining. The auditorium shook. "Do you want to hear one more song, Minneapolis?"

Of course we did, and Robyn shotgunned into "With Every Heartbeat", leaving a tremulous mass of people that were still not satiated. Robyn came back for a second encore -- a punchy one, with the empowering "Konichiwa Bitches" closing it -- and then, finally, for a third and final encore, where she covered ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and her original 1998 hit "Show Me Love."

The lights in the club came up, and as the crowd filtered out of First Avenue and onto the streets, I could hear them chanting "Robyn! Robyn!" three blocks down as I found my way back to my car.

Critic's Bias: Robyn!!!!!!!! Please. She is one of my guiltiest pleasures, and I feel not guilty about it all.
The Crowd: Swarming, sweaty, sometimes smelly, and ready to rave. With an overwhelming populace of gay boys getting their dance on, God love 'em.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I thought we already had a Boy George?" remarked my friend Robyn Lewis innocuously of second opener Diamond Rings (John O), who sported shiny stretchy pants and, yes, a very Boy George-esque look.
Random Notebook Dump: Diamond Rings was a really interesting, talented one-man show as he switched between keys, synths, and electric guitar. His sound was like intelligent house music, and his deep baritone sometimes morphed from atmospheric lyrical droning to fast-paced beat-spitting.... Watch for this kid. He might not be opening shows much longer.

Set list:
Time Machine
Dancing On My Own
We Dance To The Beat
Do You Really Want Me (Show Respect)
Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do
Love Kills
Call Your Girlfriend
Stars 4-Ever
Get Myself Together
High Heels
Dancehall Queen
Hang With Me
With Every Heartbeat
U Should Know Better
Konichiwa Bitches
Dancing Queen (ABBA cover)
Show Me Love

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