November 14, 2010
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
Endlessly labeled as a "Swedish pop star" by people who likely haven't witnessed her fierceness firsthand and remember her only for her '90s hit "Show Me Love," Robyn proved to a sold-out crowd at the Fine Line on Sunday night that such a label will no longer contain her. Pop star will do just fine now, thanks.
[jump] The residual bitterness of winter's inaugural snowfall didn't keep the Robyn fans from coming out on Sunday evening, and with the days of the smoking patio clearly behind us the Fine Line felt more packed than usual at an early hour. Though there was a chill outside, inside there was a near-tangible anticipation in the air, the crowd buzzing about what the spritely siren might wear and which songs made up their pre-party soundtracks tonight (one guy joked, "I watched her videos all day long -- I'm so tacky!"). And let's not make any bones about who these fans were: They were gay men (hundreds of them) and their friends, discerning music fans who might normally consider themselves anti-pop, and lovers of the dancefloor.
Just shy of 8 p.m., burgeoning music powerhouse and raven-haired British actor Natalia Kills -- who seems to be craving a piece of the Gaga action -- attempted to whet this picky audience's appetite and piqued their curiosity with her single "Zombie", readying them for the dance-pop feast that was to come. Unfortunately, what came next was hipster magnet Maluca and her down-n-dirty merger of baile funk and Latin rap, which didn't inspire this set of fans who craved glitz, glam and dance jams. This made the wait for everyone's favorite Swede feel infinite, but after a short overhead set of disco classics by Donna Summer and the like, it was time.
Strobes went on the attack and the fog rolled in, Robyn's two drummers and two keyboard players settling into position and dressed in white coveralls reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. Robyn soon joined them to ferocious applause, the petite platinum blonde emanating some serious swagger in a bulky black middriff-bearing jacket, cut-out top, brick red leggings held up by far more belts than were necessary and club-kid platform shoes.
Robot speak and an explosion of synths kicked off "Fembot," but things didn't get crazy until the third song in -- Robyn's remix of the Teddybears' brag track "Cobrastyle," immediately followed by "Dancing On My Own," which she memorably performed on Letterman in July. Next to me, a grinning fan shouted "Daddy like!" while "I love yous" echoed like camera flashes from all corners of the club. It was obvious this woman, in just being her naturally trendsetting self, is setting the bar for future-forward pop music that will not be dumbed down by autotune, ridiculous hooks or tedious remixes. It's already club ready, and boy did this group and their fearless leader need a dancefloor.
Robyn is an amazing dancer, and not in a choreographed way. The beats hit and she reacts in a way that almost makes you want to imitate her. It's how you might picture her dancing at a club or in her bedroom. For fans, it was frustrating to be so spatially restricted when the music -- most of which came from her aptly titled Body Talk release -- was so rhythmic, so physically tempting. Chair-dancing and head-nodding just doesn't cut it at shows like this.
"If all you guys weren't here, this wouldn't mean nothing so thank you for coming out," Robyn said in her adorable dialect, just slightly breathless from a powerful version of the Kleerup-produced "With Every Heartbeat." She followed that with "Dream On," her contribution to Christian Falk's second album and a track a gay friend nearby said is "definitely an anthem for the downtrodden." It was at this point when the realization came that nearly all of Robyn's tracks, while ridiculously danceable, have a bit of a sad, longing tone to them. This might come from her own desire to remain authentic to her fans rather than to pretend, like many pop stars do in their music, that life exists only in pure heartbreak or true love. Robyn is just real, and from the shouts and yelps in the audience, it's appreciated.
Of course a crowd like this deserves an encore, maybe even two. After an explosive rendition of "Hang With Me" -- yet another jam with a yearning vibe -- Robyn and her band came back for a third and final time to perform Prince's "When Doves Cry," the pop star pausing once to say to her Minneapolis fanbase, "If you see him, will you please tell him I love him?" Cameras and iPhones plunged into the air.
"I've come here to be with you tonight and you guys have made it all worth it," Robyn concluded, launching into the hit that made her famous. "Show Me Love" at this point wasn't a demand but a given.
Critic's Bias: Robyn's had a casual fan in me since her debut in the late '90s, but it wasn't until her recent Body Talk release that I realized what a gem she is. Minneapolis was a supremely lucky city last night.
The Crowd: Gay, loud and proud.
Overheard In The Crowd: "She needs a bigger dancefloor."
Random Notebook Dump: "Chair dancing is frustrating when the music's this good. Girl is absolutely fierce."
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Tony Nelson.
Cry When You Get Older
Dancing On My Own
We Dance To The Beat / Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do
The Girl And The Robot (Royksopp collabo)
With Every Heartbeat
U Should Know Better
Hang With Me
When Doves Cry (Prince cover)
Show Me Love