November 23, 2010
@ The Warfield
Better than: Dancing on your own.
So we know that Robyn is obsessed with robots, but it might be time to consider the possibility that she actually is one.
Last night at the Warfield, the Swedish lass delivered her hypnotic house-pop with an eerily mechanized efficiency. She bounced and twisted and punched the air with a shock-and-awe sexiness that could have been programmed into some clinically effective Intel-designed pop-star chip. Picture a just-this-side-of-androgynous Data (yes, from "Star Trek"), blonde mop, platform construction boots, goldish tights, love sensors turned up high in the CPU's emotion algorithm, full fuck-me vocabulary installed, whipping an 85 percent gay crowd into gyrating ecstasy. If last night was any sign, the impending vapidness of our tech-orgy future may at least be a pretty good time.
Even when she danced -- which she did a lot -- Robyn rolled around, or punched the air, or shot her arms up and shuddered her torso in a way that was even too post-human to be Scandinavian. I was expecting a Volvo-quality approach to Eurotrash dance music, but Robyn did it full-on cyborg; not even Honda has built a machine so effective. A squadron of backing-band white dudes in lab coats aided her Roboqueen image; two drum kits and two formidable towers of keyboards bleeped and blooped and banged and blared out the clubby textures of the 31-year-old's simple (and maybe simplistic) take on music-for-moving-around-with-your-lover.
The harsh glow of machinery sounds didn't elevate uninspired refrains like those from "We Dance To The Beat," which, like a portion of the set, came off just boring. But damn if the stuttering synths of "Dancing On My Own" didn't throw the room into an ecstatic melee. Most of the other maximalist bangers in Robyn's decade-plus-long catalog did, too. "Konichiwa Bitches," which hit during the second encore, bristled with punk attitude; the stomping rudimentary house of "Hang With Me" drew grins around the pit when it arrived midway through the first encore.
Body Talk, delivered toward the end of the main set -- a mini-case study in how Robyn's robo-music is actually so freaking human. The beats are all tech, sure, but this one, like Robyn's best songs, thrives on lofty, emotion-tripping vocal melodies. The tendons in her neck strained as she hit those high notes last night, I will testify. And later, during the dubby "Dancehall Queen," Robyn found a hip-sliding movement so nasty and freaky that no machine could have digitized its sexiness. She did it over and over. The crowd yelled, gushed, cheered, maybe ejaculated. Machines still can't do that to us, so Robyn must be human after all.
Then there was "Indestructible," the instant-anthem off of this week's new
The (second) opener: Maluca came out wearing a weird thing brandishing her name, then took it off to reveal a skimpy gray top. Her backing DJ set off blaring bass jams and she sang and rapped over them while dancing like crazy.
As with lots of gay favorites, many audience members didn't just like Robyn, didn't just want to hear her and see her -- they seemed to feel a camaraderie with the singer somewhere between platonic adoration and true romance. Our robo-host never had to ask for hands in the air, dancing, or singing along. The post-show scene on Market street was positively elated. Even the shirtless dudes were stoked, and it was freezing out there.
San Francisco moment: Robyn added a line about "dykes and trannies" to "Dream On," and it got huge applause.
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