Robyn kicked off her first solo tour of the U.S. to a crowd of about 500 in Florida's 2,400-capacity Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Friday (Nov. 5). But the 31-year-old leftfield pop star, sporting her trademark white-blonde pixie 'do, a cut-off Philadelphia Flyers T-shirt and piped athletic pants -- which she promptly split two songs in -- played as if to a sold-out arena. She feed off the energy of the adoring throng in the orchestra pit, or perhaps created her own as if from some internal nuclear reactor that kept on giving.
Call Miami a "build" market for the Swedish B-girl/Tinkerbell: New York, Chicago, and Vancouver dates on the tour are sold-out. But with the third installment of her "Body Talk" series of albums set for release on November 22, the time was right to spread her gospel, and its message is simple: Robyn is one of greatest pop performers of this decade. She's cracked the code of how to make dance-based music work live, single-handedly making track acts seem tedious and obsolete, and over-the-top arena shows unnecessary.
At the Fillmore, joined by her four bandmates (two drummers and two keyboardists in white lab jackets), she was a woman both possessed and in charge, never allowing anything to hamper her - ripped pants, an unfaithful ear monitor, a production effect difficult to recreate live. (The double-vocal on the anthemic "We Dance To The Beat" - one Vocodered, one straight? Two mics and stands took care of that.)
On stage, she is enigmatic, an appealing sprite with a voice that coos and chirps, but with a fighter's stance and narrow eyes. Whether the song was about sexy cyborgs ("Fembot"), fearless love ("Indestructible," the next "Body Talk" single), or the pain of rejection ("Be Mine!"), she sang each word with conviction, punctuating each beat with her own dance - a punchy hip-hop/raver style of movement usually reserved for after-hours dance floors, fearless and anonymous at the same time.
The "Body Talk" series has yielded two sing-alongs -- "Dancing on My Own" and "Hang With Me" -- and she opted to play them consecutively, just before the close of the set. Each member of the crowd not only sang along, they danced along, merging the cathartic experience of club dancing with the uplifting joy of a perfectly crafted pop song. And while Robyn was on the stage, she might as well have been down in the pit with the crowd. This is what dance music has always tried to bring to pop: a democratized experience, without diva histrionics, idol worship or a fourth wall. Even in a semi-empty theater, you could feel the game being changed.