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Monday, Feb. 14, 2011

Robyn @ The Rave

Feb. 12, 2011

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Although her 1997 international debut, Robyn Is Here, garnered two Billboard Top 10 hits, American stardom has proved elusive for Robyn. Even as her fame grew in her native Sweden and across Europe, a seemingly endless string of label frustrations prevented her music from reaching U.S. listeners. By 2004, Robyn had decided to take matters into her own hands, founding her own label, Konichiwa Records, which reintroduced her and her increasingly dance-oriented electro-pop sound to the States with a self-titled album. Though Robyn and 2010’s trilogy of Body Talk EPs fared well in the clubs and with critics, they haven’t generated massive sales or airplay—which is strange since, for every slinky dance-floor filler like “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do” or “We Dance to the Beat,” there’s a finely crafted pop ballad like “Indestructible” or “Dancing on My Own” that seems tailor-made for endless radio rotation. If the airwaves can stomach something as Euro-sounding as Lady Gaga and something as aggressively dumb as Kesha, why not a Swede with a brain in her head?

Saturday night’s openers Natalia Kills (a tiresomely “provocative” pop chanteuse without the songs to back it up) and Diamond Rings (think a one-man Depeche Mode, but, you know, not as cool as that may sound) served merely to amuse the excitable crowd, made up of a seemingly shifting ratio of 20- and 30-something gay couples, girls-night-out groups and emo-core teenagers (I don’t quite get the last one, either, but it is The Rave, after all).

Then there was a long wait, and the crowd played that game where they cheer at any indication that the show may start soon. A roadie checks a mic and they cheer. The song playing through the sound system ends and they cheer. They start a short-lived and ineffective chant and then they cheer.

And then the lights went out and (big cheer) it quickly became apparent that all that anxious energy was justified. Along with two drummers, two keyboard/synth players and two guys tweaking laptops in the background, Robyn unleashed a breathless, strobe-lit 75-minute set that touched on all the high points (and there are many) of the Body Talk releases. The show had everything good pop should: big tunes, big stage presence and big energy, rarely slowing down long enough for her to address the crowd, who responded to the opening bars of each song with what can only be described as jubilation. It took years for Robyn to get a second chance in America; it’s good to see she’s making the most of it.