She’s hardly a household name in America, and her softly dramatic voice is not all that special. But please don’t tell Robyn, or the rabid Minnesota fans who caught her sold-out Palace Theatre gig Tuesday night, that she’s not really a superstar.
Back in town for the first time in eight years — touting an album that was an equally long time coming — the Swedish electro-pop singer returned with the charisma and cocksure attitude of a rock icon. Her nearly two-hour performance genuinely rocked, too; never mind the lack of guitars.
Anyone with just basic pop-culture reference points could have spotted traces of Freddie Mercury, Madonna, her homies ABBA and our hometown hero Prince in the way she danced, gestured and all-out glowed during Tuesday’s magnetic set.
A Europop vet at age 39 with a very Princely, petite frame, she was overt and unabashed about channeling the local legend’s influence, especially after returning to the stage from her one and only wardrobe change, before the synth-buoyant new song “Because It’s in the Music” a half-hour into the show. Her violet jacket and pants, and “Kiss”-like bump-and-grind dance moves from there on out were all the right shade of Prince.
“Thank you for letting me wear my purple suit here,” she commented at show's end. “I couldn’t help myself.”
The concert started with a very different look and vibe, though. She came out in a silvery mini-dress with matching knee-high boots on an all-white, ice-princess-like stage and remained under a transparent white curtain through the chilled-out, Sade-seductive first song “Send to Robyn Immediately.” The veil slowly lifted as the tempo slowly picked up in “Honey,” the title track to her new album.
“No, you’re not gonna get what you need,” she sang with a dramatic flair, sounding equal parts teasing and desperate.
Much like her local debut at the Fine Line in 2010, the show gradually but emphatically turned into a full-on dance party, starting with her 2010 romp "Hang With Me."
While she could have easily filled one of the bigger, fancier theaters in town, the Palace's general-admission, seat-less floor seemed requisite. On stage, Robyn herself never stopped moving and used — but didn't overuse — a single male dancer as a partner here and there to great effect.
Just as her dancing didn't seem to be overly choreographed, Robyn's unique live band kept the music from feeling like a pre-programmed, computerized EDM show, with two dueling drummers and three keyboardists.
One of those keyboardists also played a mean bass guitar — a clear, see-through model that perfectly matched the look of the set. His intermittent use of the Larry Graham/Family Stone-edition slap-bass technique was also perfectly in step with the joyously funky vibe of "Be Mine" and the extended, jammy version of "Love Is Free."
Songs from the new album, issued just four months ago, sparked some of the biggest and most excited moments. Robyn went from a pained-looking, bent-knee position at the start of the slow-building, house-music-flavored gem "Between the Lines" to full-tilt twerking dance moves by song's end. On a much mellower note, "Human Being" made for a seductive highlight in the surprisingly chilled-out encore.
Before the encore, though, came the hits. Just like the singer herself they seemed bigger in concert than their chart numbers and overall stature would suggest.
"Call Your Girlfriend" had the 2,500 fans dramatically gesturing and dancing to the words as if they were starring in a remake of "Xanadu." Even better, the crowd impressively landed its lines in "Dancing on My Own," as Robyn brazenly stepped back from the mic and stopped the music to let them sing a whole verse and chorus on their own. That's the kind of thing only megastars can do.