tue 23/07/2024

Robyn, The Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Robyn, The Roundhouse

Robyn, The Roundhouse

Breakneck and relentless electropop from Sweden hits home

Robyn: A cheerleader dressed as GI Joe

Halfway through last night’s show, as songs segued and smooshed into each other, it became clear that Robyn has perfected a high-concept pop that’s impossible to place geographically. She might be Swedish, but bloopy Chicago house, Euro electro and synthetic Japanese new wave are in the mix. A human blender, she’s at a peak – visibly fizzing.

Although she says she has a throat infection – probably the reason for the single-song encore (“With Every Heartbeat”) – she's constantly throwing martial arts shapes and flinging herself side to side as though she’s experiencing an alien attack on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Bouncing on her three-inch rubber-soled platforms, she's relentless. Despite the footwear, she’s not the amazon she seems in her videos. She’s little. But she fills the whole stage, hurtling between the two keyboard players that flank her. Two drummers are at the back. No guitars.

She might have been pigeonholed as rap pop, disco pop or latterly electropop, but Robyn’s path is less straightforward than the music itself. Four albums came out between 1995 and 2005, with the last (Robyn) being the first on Konichiwa, her own label. Conflicts with former label Jive over her less poppy, more electro-inclined direction pushed her to create Konichiwa. Of course, the Jive-offending “Who’s That Girl" became a hit. Control is obviously an issue and, with the freedom to do what she wants, 2010 saw her new album issued as three separate releases: Body Talk Pt 1, Body Talk Pt 2 and Body Talk - the latter including re-recordings of songs from the former two. She’s recently declared another album is imminent. On a creative and conceptual roll, she’s got a lot to say. Right now, Swedish pop is in safe hands.

And the world is listening. Fêted by Madonna, she’s been Grammy nominated in the States, up for a Brit here and, a couple of weeks ago, was shortlisted for the Nordic Music Prize (she didn’t win). She’s won Swedish Grammis, but she didn’t look bothered about the thoughts of any committee.

Last night’s Roundhouse set was all Konichiwa-period material, delivered at breakneck pace. Songs were defined, but her voice initially wasn’t. Until the fourth song, “Dancing On My Own”, she was hard to hear, buried in the mix and beneath the tracked backing vocals. But “Dancing On My Own”, last night’s most downbeat moment with its soaring chorus and Giorgio Moroder synths, lifted things. The set’s core was an extraordinary, hard-hitting medley of “We Dance to the Beat”, “Don’t Fucking Tell me What to Do” and “Love Kills”, the Marshall Jefferson pulse of the former giving way to the edge of the latter. With more heart than Euro dance acts like Cascada, there was also more art. The precision and diamond-hard delivery called to mind forgotten Japanese new wavers and synth poppers like The Plastics and Sandi and the Sunsets.

Sadly, the throat infection denied the chance of hearing her encore version of Abba’s “Dancing Queen”, but this was probably enough. Robyn was a cheerleader dressed as GI Joe, seemingly as indestructible as last year’s single. Subtlety was sacrificed for full-on impact, but even so you’d have to have a heart of stone not to have been swept along by this.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” video


yes. last night was super awesome. even with the throat infection. sad we didnt get the 2nd encore - but if she's as ill as she said, i'm just glad we got anything - and it was amazing! I love this woman. i thought the sound was better than janelle monae on tuesday though.

The sound for Janelle Monae was terrible. I stood next to the mixing board - you'd think the best place to hear - and still spent the night ears ringing.

To give my comment about the Robyn sound some context (I wasn't at Janelle Monae): I was sitting in the front of the balcony, pretty-much dead centre. Overall, I thought Robyn too loud, but I did have ER25s stuck in my ears so the sound as heard live was very clear for me, shortcomings and all. The nadir of sound for me at The Roundhouse was the John Foxx show a while ago: aural mud.

For Janelle i was dead front, dead centre - i had trouble hearing the vocals for the support, i had ear protection for janelle but it still wasnt that clear. I didnt wear them for Robyn last night and overall it was a much more comfortable experience and i could hear the vocal better, this time i was dead front, but more off centre in front of the keyboardist (on right as you look at the stage) i also thought the lighting wasn't great - given that i've seen some awesome photos of Robyn from her tours over the past year or so, it seemed a bit dark and dingy. Does this mean the roundhouse sucks? or someone's tour sound man? Tonight Bristol show has been cancelled. Hoping robyn is back soon and playing a better venue.. for some more awesomeness!

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters