The Swedish pop singer Robyn’s best-known single is about dancing alone. But she certainly had new partners on the Hollywood Bowl stage Sunday night.
Over the last few years, Robyn has positioned herself as the pop star for the unpopular. She had just enough moxie (and peroxide) to cheer up the world’s weirdos with singles such as “Indestructible” and “Call Your Girlfriend.”
But at the sold-out Bowl, joined by the Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp, she writhed on the stage risers in a metallic sexbot get-up, stretching her limbs to sultry, after-hours sounds. She played her hits, but she sang less, danced more and reveled in the physicality of her performance (it’s no accident that a pair of recent releases shared the title “Body Talk”).
This show presented a new Robyn. She’s a outsider pop singer who's won over the masses, and used the gestures of stardom for her own purposes.
This collaborative dual-headline bill, part of KCRW-FM’s annual World Festival, underlined the Scandinavian takeover of American top-40 pop and its freaky electro offshoots.
Royksopp took the stage with an impressively sizable backing band (two drummers, guitarists and multiple synth players) and outfits that looked like deep-space hunting garb. Royksopp isn’t quite a dance act, but they expand on the palette of electronica with moody guitar runs and a range of tempos.
Their centerpiece track “What Else Is There?” sets a tone of romantic apocalypse, with images of “Flashlights, nightmare, sudden explosions” at a menacing disco pace. “This Must Be It” heaved with analog noise and club-ready kick drums.
But they closed with their 2001 track “Poor Leno,” and it brightened the mood substantially, with Chic’s chunky funk guitars and and a house beat that felt almost retro in its swing.
It was a perfect setup for Robyn, who shared much of the same backing band but used it to totally different ends.
Her sliced-up Crossfit sweatshirt suggested a workout was coming, and she was absolutely right. “Work It Out” borrowed from Roger Troutman’s talkbox and Patrick Cowley’s Hi-NRG synths for a track that should count as a gym visit. “Love Is Free” brought her to the edge of twerking, with echo-soaked calls to purposeful, mind-expanding debauchery.
Her two excellent, hallmark singles “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dancing On My Own” have achieved ubiquity for all the usual pop-hit reasons — a great sync in “Girls,” a moving music video where Robyn cuts rug in an empty nightclub. They brought the Bowl to its feet, a validating reaction for two singles that, at their core, are respectively about unrepentant cheating and watching an old love move on.
But the closing set, where the two acts teamed up on a bevy of tracks from their new long-EP “ Do It Again,” did both of them one better. Royksopp got to be a straight-ahead dance band, and Robyn got to carry on a song with her presence rather than just her voice.
“Say It” throbbed with dark arpeggios ready for a Berlin warehouse gig, while the title track had an early-Madonna sass honed to modern dance-floor precision. “Every Little Thing” had a slinky, airy atmosphere, and Robyn adjusted to it with breathy pleas and some unexpectedly provocative poses.
Their collaboration felt more volatile than either act’s solo sets, which was probably the point. Dancing alone is fine, laudable even. But you can only get into real trouble with some company.
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