Swedish singer Robyn, self-described as the “most killingest pop star on the planet,” returned to Los Angeles for her first live concert since she toured with Röyksopp five years ago, and her first solo concert in eight years (both times she headlined the Hollywood Bowl). Appearing at the Hollywood Palladium, the concert was one of the final events in the 2019 Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles. While the festival may have been reaching its conclusion, Robyn was just rolling in to promote her latest album, Honey.
At her second sold-out show at the Palladium on Saturday, Feb. 23, the Robyn we got was just as much fun as the Robyn of five and eight years ago, but because of the set list and the venue itself, there seemed to be a little something missing this time around. Robyn started the night on a high note with the title track of her latest album (which is one of the best songs on the album). She emerged with her band onto a nicely decorated stage, the centerpiece of which was a giant sculpture of three hands holding one another. Her vocals were crisp and spot-on, and remained that way for the entire night.
The energy stayed strong as she followed up “Honey” with two of her biggest hits from her career-defining Body Talk album: “Indestructible” and “Hang With Me.” As Robyn approaches her 40s (she turns the big 4-0 in June), her crazy dance moves were a bit tamer than they were at previous local gigs. She still did her iconic choreography to “Call Your Girlfriend” during the bridge, and she still definitely moved around the stage way more than most 40-year-olds would be able to, but her movement was noticeably different than how it used to be.
Behind her was a giant drape that sometimes showed live video of her (which, when it did, was sometimes distorted). The show was completely sold out, so the floor, which is one giant level, was completely packed (as were the balconies). I think perhaps that Robyn is simply too big to play the 5,000-capacity Palladium. The last time two times she was in L.A., she played the 17,500-capacity Hollywood Bowl; in March, she's headlining Madison Square Garden in New York for this tour.
While Robyn's vocals were perfect, one of the biggest appeals of seeing her live is witnessing the energy and emotion she puts into the music. Since she's too big to play a venue small enough for everyone to see no matter how far they are from her, a bigger venue is more conducive because they have a setup in place with screens, the ability to create a catwalk, etc. At the Palladium Saturday night, it often was hard to see Robyn at all, unless you were lucky enough to get to the venue hours early and get a spot in the front of the floor (and even then, it's easy to lose your spot if you get a drink or use the restroom).
But even if you can't see Robyn, her music is so infectious that you can still dance your ass off and have a good time, right? For the most part, yes — her self-titled album and Body Talk feature some of the greatest dance-pop ever recorded. Her latest album, however, is a bit hit-or-miss, and unfortunately, Robyn decided to do a few of the misses, creating a lull in the middle of the concert that definitely lost some energy. Following a remix of “Be Mine!” and one of the stronger songs from Honey, “Because It's in the Music,” Robyn sang “Between the Lines,” “Love Is Free” (from her mini-album with La Bagatelle Magique) and a remix of “Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do” that completely erased the pulsing beat and made it almost unrecognizable. These three songs are more house-influenced and don't have a whole lot of lyrics (most of the lyrics from “Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do” also were erased). During this stretch, the concert felt more like a WeHo club than a live music event. Perhaps that's what she was going for, but considering it was hard to even see her a lot of the time, pretty much just hearing house music for 15 minutes wasn't doing it for many in the crowd, which was (no surprise), very LGBT-heavy.
Luckily, this lull was immediately followed by Robyn's signature hit, “Dancing on My Own.” For the first chorus, the music and Robyn's singing stopped, as she let the crowd sing it themselves. Something about hearing 5,000 people singing word for word “I'm right over here, why can't you see me,” especially with so many LGBTQ fans in attendance, gave me goosebumps. As the entire Palladium sang “I keep dancing on my own,” the irony wasn't lost: Despite the venue and set list flaws, Robyn and her music are still bringing people together, making sure that no one has to dance on their own.