Walking down the backstreets of London’s Shoreditch area to see a pint-sized Swedish pop star didn’t quite make sense to us. Usually these acts are tailored to make their big entrances at G.A.Y. or Popstarz in the more teen-friendly venues of London, especially when they have an album or single dropping the following Monday. However, in rolling on into Shoreditch’s Cargo club, we knew this wasn’t just any other night.
We will be honest with you. We didn’t know much about Robyn before this review. We were sent a copy of ‘Konichiwa Bitches’ about six months ago and we loved it. Everytime it came on our iPod we found ourselves singing along to it’s electro tinges and rapping along to it’s vocals like we were some sort of hip-hop mastermind…and that’s about it. We saw the video and had a chuckle – it was cute and colourful and Robyn certainly has a bit of a playful and humourous streak which is quite adorable. We read about her constantly on the pop blogs as she was somehow this ‘pop princess gone bad’. So with meager anticipation we downloaded ‘The Rakamonie EP’ from eMusic and suddenly understood what this Swedish little morsel was all about – it got us very excited. We knew we couldn’t miss her gig at Cargo.
The whole evening was very relaxed and energetic. Some very nice woman (who was also a lot tipsy) bought us drinks (thank you darling) and we plopped ourselves right next to the stage. The stage seemed a bit grungy…decorated in that rock fashion like we were going to see an Arctic Monkeys show. When we had a closer look we noticed that the stage was made of up of three drum sets, a guitar and the most important instrument of any electronic artist, a Mac – how else would the technotronic beats of ‘Konichiwa Bitches’ be played?
Robyn comes on and opens the show with ‘Cobrastyle’ and the crowd goes wild. Heads bopping and lips moving immediately. We noticed the fans were all part of a huge, yet strange cross section of peeps. Goth kids, mums, men in suits, good-looking Swedes – you name it, they were there. Second song on the setlist was ‘Whos That Girl’ then followed by songs from her new album ‘Handle Me’ and ‘Bum Like You’. Great songs too, all played live with two drummers, the Mac and Robyn strutting her stuff like a maniac. You could almost see the physical energy this little woman gave off – she was on fire. Electric.
Surprisingly, one of Robyn’s best known songs ‘Be Mine’ was played in a rock style fashion that is more upbeat then her version on ‘The Rakamonie EP’. Then Robyn performs a rockin medley of 80’s classics ‘Buffalo Stance’ by Neneh Cherry and ‘Push It’ by Salt N Pepa before launching into the song everyone was waiting for – ‘Konichiwa Bitches’. This song was a marvel to watch live. Robyn obviously loves this track and got a little saucy with her hand gestures, all the while flirting with the photographers and fans in the front during the performance. We brought along a friend who was completely mesmerized by Robyn at this point who exclaimed "I can’t wait to buy her stuff – I’m a fan now. The girl is hot."
Seemingly the only real old track Robyn digged up from her pop princess days was ‘Show Me Love’ and we even knew the words to this song, singing along with the hardcore Robyn fans in the front – like a seventies love-in. However, the best performance of the night was ‘Dream On’, a track that Robyn collaborated on with Christian Falk awhile back – the lyrics were so stunning that we had to take a second listen to the song when we got home and found the video on YouTube which is amazing – check it out. Definitely a great electronic track and Robyn’s vocals shine on it – we felt fortunate to see her perform this track live.
So as for the big finales – well Robyn sang ‘Be Mine’ again in it’s ballad form and ‘Keep This Fire Burning’. She spoke briefly of her foundation of Konichiwa Records and how she has done everything on her own which we completely respect. This was the only real time she talked to the audience – however not a diva…we didn’t mind, we fell in love with her and the performance and that is what it was all about. The final song was her infamous Prince cover ‘Jack U Off’ and Robyn told us how she just loves this song, and well, we love how naughty, yet cute she comes off singing it.
Leaving Cargo we felt energized. Not only had Robyn exceeded our expectations as a new fan, but we felt special to bare witness to a hard-working and humble musician staying true to her path. If we were going to compare Robyn to anyone, she is the perfect combination hybrid between Pink and Bjork. She’s no Gwen Stefani (and that’s ok by us) and certainly no comparison at all to Amy Winehouse – Robyn is truly her own star and has the special something that makes her an Electroqueer Fold artist.
We urge you all to buy her album on Monday when it drops in the UK and if you’re one of the US readers – make sure you go out of your way to get your hands on an import copy. If this girl doesn’t make it in the music industry as an indie artist, then really no one else should.