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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 28, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 43
Robyn, kinetic star at City Arts Fest
Arts & Entertainment
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Robyn, kinetic star at City Arts Fest

by Rahul K. Gairola - SGN Contributing Writer

Robyn October 20 Paramount Theatre

Undoubtedly the highlight of City Arts Fest, Robyn seemed to move mountains by compressing all of Capitol Hill into the glamorous, gilded space of the Paramount Theatre. Her 16-song set, which included two encores, produced the sweatiest gyrations that the city has witnessed in a decade. It is an understatement to say that the kinetic energy of her performance probably generated enough energy last Thursday to power Seattle's grid system.

Mounting the stage against the seductive glow of red backlights and what looked like two giant spinning pinwheels, Robyn materialized through a haze of smoke in what appeared to be black leather pants and a trash bag with awkward stars cut into it. However, the most striking thing one notices about the Swedish diva is that she is an absolutely phenomenal dancer - if there is ever a remake of Footloose, she should land the starring role. During her opening tracks of the long version of 'wdttb/dftmwtd' and 'Fembot/Bad Gal,' Robyn crossed the stage from one end to the other while pumping her fist in the air.

Greeting the audience with a booming 'Seattle, c'mon! I am so happy to be here!' Robyn dived into 'Dance Hall Queen' followed by a high-power rendition of 'Cobrastyle,' singing to the audience in a trance-like state. Robyn's hypnotized visage, bathed in golden lights that were subsequently washed away by blue strobes, and melodically metallic vocals rendered the impression of a robot freed from its master. As she segued into the hit 'Dancing on My Own,' the dark auditorium metamorphosed into a sea of illuminated cell phones and glow sticks. As if expressing solidarity with the global Occupy Wall Street movement, Robyn fisted the air and the audience followed suit. At the close of the song, she kept dancing and spinning at the head of the stage, signifying the close of that set.

This marked the moment when one could not help but notice the diverse styles of movement that Robyn is capable of. Indeed, dancing is as much a part of the show as the music is. As she went on to sing 'Indestructible,' 'Love Kills,' and 'Call Your Girlfriend,' Robyn set aside the wild dancing from one end of the stage to the other. After facing the audience and pretending she was going to stage dive, her movements became more fragmented. The transition into this sequence of songs was matched by a shift into jerky neck and shoulder movements that made her seem like a puppet pulled on invisible strings by the God of Disco.

This shift from high-power dancing to more restrained movement seemed to reflect the lyrics of each song, and intensified as Robyn continued. A poignant performance of 'Call Your Girlfriend' followed 'Love Kills' with Robyn on her knees, crooning with her body bent over backwards with taut stomach exposed. 'Be Mine' and 'Hang With Me' were punctuated by Robyn's phenomenal ability to utilize her body like a musical instrument, as if her dancing was producing the sounds. Her jerky motion in those two numbers ceased during the closing song of her main set, 'With Every Heartbeat.' What felt like the throbbing beat of an '80s arcade became a heartfelt scenario with the singer clutching her chest after inviting the audience to sing the chorus. But this demonstrates Robyn's brilliant ability to perform: she has mastered the art of synchronizing music and dance while exuding empathy that assures fans that the trials and tribulations they experience are recognized and shared.

After exiting the stage for a hot minute, Robyn re-materialized through the smoke and black lights sans star shirt with a water bottle. As if untouched by the last hour's intense aerobic workout, she immediately threw herself into 'None of Dem.' She then surprised the sweaty mass by segueing into 'The Girl and the Robot,' her collaborative track with fellow Scandinavian act Röyksopp, which hails from Norway and has also experienced critical acclaim in the U.S. In perhaps one of her most haunting numbers, Robyn's vocals conveyed the lyrics' chilly desperation of kissing cold metal. Under flickering strobe lights, Robyn introduced her band and thanked Seattleites for a wonderful evening.

Just as the show seemed to close, it began once again. For her second encore, Robyn treated the audience to a medley of 'You Should Know Better/Konichiwa Bitches.' The feel of this song again resurrected the '80s; the sound of laser beams penetrating the sky, combined with lighting that resembled the explosion of a Rubik's Cube, saturated the theater. Paying homage to her most loyal fan base, Robyn closed the night with a slow rendition of 'Dancing Queen,' the 1976 disco anthem by fellow Swedish act ABBA, which gently turned into 'Show Me Love.' This was perhaps the most appropriate song to close with because as she so ardently demonstrated, Robyn is a queen of dance as much as she is of pop music and culture.

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Robyn, kinetic star at City Arts Fest
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