Robyn at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom
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In certain corners of the Internet, Robyn Carlsson is the biggest pop star on the planet. She might not move as many units as Lady Gaga or dominate the radio like Katy Perry or Ke$ha, but she’s cultivated a loyal and vocal fanbase online thanks to increasingly ambitious projects, like 2010’s trilogy of Body Talk EPs. It’s safe to assume the Milwaukee branch’s members of Robyn’s Internet contingent were the ones that packed a sweltering Rave/Eagles Ballroom on Saturday night, crowding in to take part in Robyn’s ’11 victory lap.
It would have been easy for Robyn to just come through on this tour with a boombox and sing to MP3s of her songs (like her dreadful opener Natalia Kills did). After all, the crowd at The Rave had already bought her hype wholesale; we weren’t expecting anything except reasonable approximations of “Indestructible” and “With Every Heartbeat.” Instead, she’s on tour with a full band, including two drummers and two synth players, who whip her songs up into crowd-leveling behemoths. Songs like “Fembot” and “Call Your Girlfriend” aren’t the robotic synth jams they are on record; they become pounding monoliths. Robyn clearly has this setup in mind for something more than a tour of rock clubs across America; she opens for Katy Perry later this year and has some festival dates lined up, too.
The sound was suspect from the jump, blowing out the sub-Lady Gaga sex-pop of Natalia Kills and swallowing whole the glam-icisms of Toronto’s Diamond Rings (who had a sense of humor about playing “the only guitar you’ll see all night”). Robyn’s band setup allowed her to (mostly) avoid the speaker rattling of the cued samples in both openers, but she mainly got over with sheer magnetism. Robyn worked hard to make her set into a massive party, pointing out crowd members, writhing on her mic stand, and dancing like crazy.
That said, a lot of Robyn’s work was done long beforehand, thanks to her nearly perfect set list. Robyn has a well of pop jams that would make any band jealous; she can play for 50 minutes and still have the irresistible “Hang With Me” and “Get Myself Together” for the encore.