Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gig review: Robyn rocks the Shepherd's Bush Empire

Something happened at Robyn's gig tonight that I have never, ever seen before. About three minutes into the show, a couple of dozen people lowered their phones, stopped filming and just watched.

The Swedish singer deserves it. She throws herself into performing with the sort of energy you'd normally associate with a thermonuclear event. "She's the Duracell Bunny of pop", an acquaintance tweeted during the gig. Yes, but it's the Duracell bunny on a Red Bull drip, shadow boxing a pair of scissors on an electrified dancefloor. And that's darned hard work in a pair of skin-tight red leather trousers.

Robyn's setlist is largely drawn from the first two volumes of her Body Talk trilogy. They're powerful songs of rebellion, crisis, heartbreak and hope - and the melodrama is only heightened by the presence of live musicians and dual drummers. They cut loose on the big electro tracks like Cobrastyle and Fembot, but are sensitive enough to rein it in when Robyn needs to emote on Hang With Me... and make no mistake, despite scampering around the stage like an adorable bottle-blonde puppy, Robyn delivers vocally.

This was the last night of the current tour, so we got a slightly extended set - including new single Indestructible, which "we've never done before". Perhaps it's unfair to gripe at the generosity, but I did feel the bonus content exposed a certain lack of variety in Robyn's song catalogue. The button that activates the digga-digga-digga bassline must have had a phone book resting on it to save the keyboard player from RSI.

But by the time we got to the encores, the relentless digital thrum was put to one side. A slyly funky Dancehall Queen had the crowd gyrating and grinding against whatever solid object met with the least resistance. Everyone joined in the call-and-response mayhem of Konichiwa Bitches and, to close the night, a minimalist version of 1997's Show Me Love had long-term fans on their feet, straining for the high notes.

Concerts don't really get much better than this. On a couple of occasions I even experienced that "gig euphoria" where, without the aid of drugs or alcohol, you feel a swelling wave of goodwill towards an entire room of complete strangers. It's the sort of thing that makes you want to put away your camera phone and just watch.

THX Intro
Cry When You Get Older
Hang With Me
We Dance To The Beat / Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do
Love Kills
The Girl & The Robot
Dancing On My Own
Dream On
With Every Heartbeat

Encore one:
Look Into My Eyes
Konichiwa Bitches / Close To Me (The Cure)
Be Mine

Encore two:
Dancehall Queen
Dancing Queen (Abba) / Show Me Love

PS: If you have any sense, you'll book tickets for Robyn's UK return at The Roundhouse before you get distracted by that squirrel.

[Photos on this post courtesy of NRK on Flickr]

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