The Swedish pop star delivers one hell of a show at Alexandra Palace.
I didn't attend one of Robyn's last live dates in London, supporting Coldplay at Emirates Stadium, but I'm willing to bet Alexandra Palace was a better fit. Though the exterior is positively palatial, the interior hall is pleasingly no-frills, with a charred ceiling (a lingering presence from either errant pyrotechnics or the days when you could smoke indoors) and without the overbearing security and retina-scorching advertising boards you get at Wembley Arena or the O2. It's as if Brixton Academy acquired a large extension, but didn't quite know what to do with the extra space. Robyn's fans, a coalition of twenty-somethings in ironic Celine Dion black metal shirts and older men in definitely unironic Celine Dion tour shirts, filled that space with vigour, pirouetting and pogoing through the entire evening.
Though Robyn's catalogue of singalongs was already strong, the gap between 2010's Body Talk trilogy and 2018's Honey helped forge her legend. Unlike similarly lengthy hiatuses undertaken by Sade and Kate Bush a generation ago, this break didn't provoke guessing games as to her whereabouts. The Swede was happy to release collaborations and occasionally pop up in the upper echelons of festival lineups. She just wanted to get her own material right.
Admittedly, a few of Honey's throwbacks to the peppy early productions of Tyree Cooper and MK felt a little thin on record. On stage, though, high-energy choreography that pitted a matador-styled Robyn against a dexterous voguing dancer gave these tunes their necessary physicality. Performed with help from an eight-piece live band, which included Kindness and Tom Lagerman from Mount Liberation Unlimited, these house homages were amplified into something ravier—perfect for a Friday night.
Robyn's core power lies in the conviction in which she sells her songs. But clever tricks also lent to the theatricality of the performance. The show began on the deliberately (sic)'d "Send To Robin Immediately," though Robyn did not send herself to the stage immediately. Instead, she sauntered into view on the next track, "Honey," which burned slower and brighter than usual. She was practically at a whisper, letting the crowd ease into a role they played throughout: Robyn's own 12000-strong Greek chorus. "With Every Heartbeat," structurally one of the stranger UK number ones in living memory, was in a constant state of lift-off without ever reaching its anticipated conclusion, which made for a canny choice to close one encore and set up the next.
Best of all was "Dancing On My Own." This shouldn't come as a surprise—it's a solid contender for pop track of the decade. Robyn dramatically killed the first chorus just as it was about to hit, leaving the audience to float over the dead air, belting out every word and screaming their support. For a good two or three minutes she lapped up the adulation, with the house lights on full glare and the LED screen behind her greyed-out. When the song finally kicked back into gear, colour once again flooded the stage. Fittingly, everything had gone purple.