O2 Academy, London, November 1
From Solange’s shimmy to ‘Gangnam Style’ star Psy’s invisible horse groove, 2012 has been a big year for dance moves. Robyn has her bag full of moves too, although she’s not really into traditional choreography, and spends her time buzzing across the stage this evening like a clockwork toy wound up too far by an over-enthusiastic child. Her legs flail one way as her arms go the other, and the moves rarely correspond directly to the ice-cool Scandi-pop being played by her four boiler suit-clad bandmates. But Robyn has rarely played by the rules, be it ditching a conveyor-belt pop career to take a more indie route, or releasing three albums in a year, as with the ‘Body Talk’ trilogy in 2011.
So this London show is a victory lap for that last brave creative move, with the majority of the set gleaned from the trio of records. Wearing a canary yellow dress – a highlighter mark over the blank page that is her band – ‘Fembot’ and ‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do’ set Robyn up as a robotic machine synthesizing the electro-house beat through her flashing eyes. She’s cold and detached but in control. However, it’s at her more distraught and broken moments that Robyn really comes to life. The stunning set highlight ‘Dancing On My Own’ is confidently thrown out just four songs into the show. “Love is hard, it isn’t fun”, she tells the audience, all of whom are dancing with the confidence that white wine and memories of a painful break up give you. Robyn ends the song with her back to the crowd, holding herself in a way loners know all too well. It takes a fair amount of skill to make a song about stalking your ex-boyfriend sound sympathetic.
Heartbreak-disco ballads are Robyn’s forte though and Brixton gets the full run of ‘Body Talk’ highlights tonight, from ‘Hang With Me’ and ‘Indestructible’ to ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ with its euphoric crescendo. Of course, each song comes with more avant-garde dancing, including a move that looks like the diminutive Swede boxing an opponent a good two feet taller than herself. In many ways, it’s the perfect metaphor for Robyn and her career right now. Intelligent, independent pop music does not tend to work out well – just ask the three people who bought Nicola Roberts’ album. Yet here stands Robyn, playing a 5,000 capacity show a good year since she last released anything. In a time where pop feels ever more predictable and reliant on one sound, it’s a joy to see this risk-taker triumph.