You have to go to Sweden to see Robyn headline a stadium. It’s not fair, but last weekend, I was fortunate enough to find myself in Stockholm for a whirlwind several days’ journey into the epicenter of all great things pop music (more on that to come), but the crown jewel of the experience happened on the day of my arrival — an epic concert to inaugurate Sweden’s new Tele2 Arena, featuring Robyn alongside fellow pop act Zhala, rock band Kent and singer-songwriter Lars Winnerbäck.
The space was built to accommodate 40,000 people — for context, Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden and Staples Center can each accommodate about 18,000 — and the floor and stands were packed. After all, Robyn, who has a relatively niche following stateside (at least compared to her superstar contemporaries), is a proper celebrity there, a boldface name every bit deserving of commanding such a spectacular crowd.
What was most dazzling, though, were the visuals — multicolored flashing neon lights gave the show a dizzying intimacy of a rave in an impressively expansive space. (I posted a few Instagram videos with helpful titles like “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK OH MY GOD” because watching thousands upon thousands of people sway their arms in unison as Robyn took the stage was sincerely awe-inspiring.)
The hourlong set was mercifully hits-centric and filler-free. “Show Me Love” transitioned seamlessly into “Cry When You Get Older,” then an attitude-packed “U Should Know Better” into “Hang With Me,” which was synth-spangled and lush. Producer Christian Falk joined her on stage for a few songs together, including the extraordinarily great and underrated “Dream On,” but by the time she hit the one-two punch of her two most heartbreaking songs, “With Every Heartbeat” and “Dancing On My Own,” it was over: Bathed in pink and purple flashing lights, she whipped across the stage, dancing furiously.
Likewise, her Rokysopp collaboration “The Girl And The Robot” and the underrated “Indestructible” (which might have been the weakest of her three lead Body Talk singles, but that’s only because “Dancing On My Own” and “Hang With Me” are so totally spectacular) were glittering and expertly executed, before an abridged version of “We Dance To The Beat” led seamlessly into “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do,” closing out the show.
Robyn is always an electrifying performer, but there was something particularly special about seeing her in her native country — and more so than I remembered, she was frantic with her dancing, wild and almost primal in her funny yellow racing suit. At times the crowd swayed their arms and vibed along with her, but they also went curiously quiet (in a distinctly un-American way) during the more commanding moments. That was fine. If she was dancing on her own, she didn’t seem to mind.
Photos courtesy of Igor Zimmermann
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