Whether you’re a longtime Stan or just someone with “Dancing On My Own” on a playlist, you know that Robyn is all about the pure, liberating joy of dance. From soul-twisting laments about heartbreak to empowering odes of resilience, the Swedish sage pairs her lyrically deft compositions with irresistible dance-pop, house and electropop. On Friday (July 19), she brought the Honey Tour to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and her superhuman ability to meld movement, music and emotion was on full display.
While the disco influences on her 2018 return Honey are subtle, the genre’s impact on her tour’s set design was unmistakable. The stage was drenched in heavenly, immaculate sheets that looked cribbed from the album art for Giorgio Moroder’s Knights In White Satin; her backing band was covered in silver sequins; and the camera that captured her performance for the side-stage screens didn’t cut between shots -- the majority of transitions were gauzy fades, the kind you’d find on a ‘70s variety show.
Taking the stage after prog-leaning jam from her band that led into “Send to Robin Immediately,” Robyn remained nearly immobile for the first song, letting her presence and robust vocals command the stage. The slow build paid off: by the time she dug into “Indestructible” (which boasted an especially funky bass line) and began to give the audience a hint of the sick moves simmering beneath the surface, the crowd was captive -- bound and gagged. When it comes to dance moves, Robyn is an idiosyncratic treasure. She threw down hardcore during a slamming run-through of “Love Is Free,” which saw Washington Heights-raised collaborator Maluca join her onstage; she shimmied with her backup dancer (a nimble, exceedingly likable guy in red denim and white cowboy fringe) during “Because It’s In the Music”; hell, she did a goddamn backwards somersault without missing a note during “Call Your Girlfriend.” It’s an impossible order to match Robyn when it comes to coordinated movement, but from the go the entire audience tried, dancing with relish and flair to every song -- and singing a substantial portion of her masterpiece “Dancing On My Own” a cappella to her, which she seemed genuinely touched by (and her impassioned self-hug at the end of the song was especially poignant).
The aforementioned Body Talk gems were obviously high moments for the crowd, but going into the show, one might wonder how the comparatively low-key Honey songs would fare in a live setting. Well, they killed. When she sang “Honey,” drenched in a golden glow reminiscent of the cover art for Ohio Players’ Honey album, the crowd emphatically sang along, and the staccato synths of “Missing U” were received almost as rapturously as “Dancing” or “Girlfriend.” Even the ambient exotica of “Beach 2k20” made a lot more sense in a live setting. On the album, it’s an unexpected curio, but in concert, it comes across as a necessary -- but still groove-laden -- valley in an otherwise high-energy set.
By the end of the show, Robyn was clearly aware the audience was hanging on her every word and gesture. And even when messing up, she seemed, well, indestructible. While throwing down to a heavily remix version of “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” she accidentally knocked her mic stand off stage and into the photo pit, causing a brief burst of feedback to intrude on the otherwise sonically honeyed set. But she didn’t stress it -- she simply danced around, all smiles, until the mic was returned to her.
“I love you -- I hope to see you soon again,” she told New York during her second encore. For anyone present at Barclays Center Friday night, soon again can’t happen fast enough.