|Robyn dances on her own during the new "Do It Again" tour|
The electronic twosome Röyksopp, who had a better outing the first time around than their Swedish tour-mate since the darker October night allowed their lights-and-lasers staging to have full effect, seemed resigned this time to a more subdued, and far less dramatic, opening solo set. Backed, interestingly, by several of the same musicians who would later play for Robyn's more pop-based set, the Norwegian duo performed something between a DJ set and a laid-back acoustic reinterpretation of their catalogue; recognizable tunes like "Happy Out Here" floated by more as suggestions rather than deliberate musical statements. While their 2011 Bowl set was an immersive sound and light experience that demanded attention, Röyksopp's set on Sunday played more as pleasant, mood-setting entrance music.
Then there came a strange, significant power shift as Robyn took the stage, stumbling over the opening lines of her 2005 hit "Be Mine," apparently (though not noticeably) out of sync with her band. Then, with a laugh and a gracious, patient smile to the audience, she righted the ship and sailed ahead with unshaken confidence. From that moment on, the Hollywood Bowl stage was Robyn's bitch. The vulnerable, overwhelmed, (and, I'm convinced, almost certainly ill) Robyn of October 2011 was but a distant memory - in fact, the Robyn on stage Sunday night looked like she might have eaten her for lunch.
She certainly dressed the part: in a cutoff red hoodie with one cutoff sleeve, black UFC boxing shorts, knee pads, shin guards, and basketball shoes, like Little Red Riding Hood going snowboarding. The effect was topped off with dramatic Amy Winehouse-style black eye makeup and a serious Ziggy Stardust mullet - David Bowie meets Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan. Her set was equally fearless: she performed at least two completely new songs in the first ten minutes, and doled out the requisite Body Talk hits to the ravenous audience like Kate Mulgrew in Orange is the New Black. At one point, she let the crowd sing the chorus to her Body Talk hit "Dancing On My Own," in complete silence, as she mimed the backwards self-hug thing from the video.
|Photo credit Ann Powers|
Watching the encore of Robyn and Röyksopp's Body Talk collaboration "None Of Dem," I thought about what imbued Robyn in this show with the magnetic power I've seen her wield in smaller club venues but had not before translated to the vast outdoors of the Hollywood Bowl. Her costuming has always held multifaceted significance, making statements at once blunt (I'm a fighter/I'm a freak) and subtle (my entire body is covered but you know what's underneath). The segments of skin she chose to bare - upper thighs in the first set, the right side of her back in the second - speak to the creed she set out in the transformative 2005 single "Who's That Girl": "I'm only sexy when I say it's okay." Indeed, the entire manner in which she moves her body emblematizes a woman in absolute and total command of her sexuality. Few of the ways she would curl her back or shake her ass or thrust her chest would in themselves seem especially sexy - Terry Richardson would never direct an underwear-clad model that way - but the attitude of "This is what I think is sexy, not what you want" is a bold, powerful statement that ultimately proves intimidating and bizarrely sexy.
Near the end of the night, as Robyn was melting all over the stage floor while the two amiable gents of Röyksopp, in chain-mail hoods, played the nine-minute electronic dirge "Monument," I looked around at the sellout crowd and felt my heart lift. I was among 18,000 young American yuppies who had come (and paid!) to the Hollywood Bowl to see the weird shit that two relatively fringe-y European acts had come to put on stage in support of a not-terribly-accessible experimental electronic pop EP, and by and large seeming to buy into it eagerly in a way I've never known a crowd like that to be. It looks like there's hope for our generation yet.