Robyn @ Heaven – 17th June 2010

by MV

I went away from writing this blog for absolutely ages, and all you got was this lousy Robyn ‘review’? It’s all true, I’m afraid…

Anyway, last night I went to see Robyn at well-known gay club / dingy tunnel Heaven. It was pretty great.

Robyn’s pretty special as far as pop types go. A huge star in Sweden for over a decade, she’s only really properly penetrated the UK pop consciousness once, with the pretty-well perfect 2007 number one single With Every Heartbeat. After dragging around a bunch of songs accumulated over half a decade, you can’t really begrudge her taking a bit of a break.

So this is Robyn’s first show over here in a couple of years (unless you count a record store showcase a few days earlier, which I’m choosing not to) and first outing full stop for the excellent Body Talk pt. 1 (ditto), and it’s in a pretty small venue (OK, a cavernous venue that somehow retains a pleasing degree of intimacy) and it all feels rather special, you’d have to say.

Very exciting, then. But first we have a little appetiser, courtesy of an appearance by Sting’s daughter (TM) I Blame Coco. Infinitely more pleasant a live experience than predicted, but at times hard to truly love (she really does sound disturbingly like her dad) and at others hard to fathom (why are we hearing a sample of Robyn’s voice on ‘Caesar’, when she’s actually in the building?). The tunes are largely OK though, and we manage to stick it out until the penultimate song, when the acoustic guitars come out and the bar beckons.

Robyn is, of course, something else entirely. A pop star unlike any other pop star and all the better for it, she nontheless packs an hour-long set with nothing but high-quality tunes. We’re in the UK, so I can’t say it’s packed with hits as such – but that’s our loss. ‘Fembot’ from the new record is as punchy an intro as you’re ever going to get, and when it’s followed with my album highlight ‘Cry When You Get Older’ we’re already in arms-in-the-air territory.

Next we get a nice run of songs that switches effortlessly between knockabout electro ditties like ‘Konichiwa Bitches’ and ‘Cobrastyle’ to full on communal pop experiences like ‘Who’s that Girl?’ and new single ‘Dancing on My Own’. And I maintain that ‘Dancehall Queen’ is the only decent cod-reggae record ever made. A definite highlight.

The set then goes into deep, almost clubby territory. Royksopp-collaboration ‘None of Dem’ sounds flimsy on record, but transcendent on Heaven’s spectacular soundsystem. It’s followed by what might well be the best-received track of the night, a storming run through last year’s (other Royksopp collaboration…) The Girl and the Robot. It’s a fantastic build-up that sadly leads into the only real low point of the night, a misguided dancefloor reworking of 2005 gem ‘Be Mine!’ that saps the joy out of the original and replaces it with tension and (let’s be honest here) a fair few vocal cock-ups from our heroine.

It’s not enough to put a damper on a near-perfect night out though, and after a quick break all’s well with the world again as ‘Dream On’ (an almost-hit, which is good enough) gets everyone well and truly prepped for the inevitable, beautiful, exceptional climax of ‘With Every Heartbeat’. For me, hearing the best single by anyone anywhere in the last decade was worth the price of admission alone. There are two more albums to come from Robyn this year – if she keeps up the quality ratio seen so far expect to see her back in arenas by the autumn. That’s if she wants to, of course…

Setlist
Fembot
Cry when you get older
Cobrastyle
Dancing on my own
Who’s that girl?
Konichiwa bitches
Dancehall queen
None of dem
The girl and the robot
Don’t fucking tell me what to do
Be mine! (reworked)

Dream on
With every heartbeat

Gay Times has the important gossip on who wore what and who was there, in case you’re tired of musical waffle.

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