Suddenly, it was silent. The thrumming bass, swirling synths, ticking drums and Robyn’s muscular soprano were stilled. In the harsh half-light of Irving’s Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory, its cavernous interior reconfigured into an intimate theater, a couple thousand voices rose up as one: “I’m in the corner/Watching you kiss her/Oh oh oh/I’m right over here/Why can’t you see me?”
The chorus of “Dancing on My Own” dissolved into fervent cheers as the woman born Robyn Carlsson beamed and almost seemed to be holding back tears as the crowd began chanting her name. Basking but a moment, she imperceptibly cued the song to drop back in behind her — the effect evoked dipping a skateboard into a deliriously long half-pipe, a giddy slip into the beyond — and the performance rolled on.
Tuesday night, which marked the final 2019 date on Robyn’s touring calendar as well as her first Dallas-area headlining performance in nearly a decade, was a vivid reminder of an eternal pop music paradox: isolation and communion.
The act of listening, taking in an artist’s music, is, at its core, a solitary endeavor. No one can know how you receive something, or what it means to you in the moment it’s first heard (or listened to over and over), or the catharsis that can result. That interiority finds purchase in a room full of like-minded souls, gathered to celebrate that which is loved so fiercely — passionately singing aloud what might have only previously been hummed in cars or sung in showers.
Robyn’s catalog is almost custom-built for such consumption, considering its often-immaculate electro-pop confections, with their gleaming, sexy, sophisticated surfaces, each laced with sharply observed lyrics capable of leaving a bruise or breaking your heart.
The 40-year-old Swedish singer-songwriter and her collaborators excel at finding the space between vulnerability and bravado: “Stuck in glitter, strands of saliva/Won’t you get me right where the hurt is?” she coos in “Honey,” the title track of both her eighth studio album and current tour.
Before an enthusiastic, if somewhat sparse, crowd largely gathered in the general admission space on the floor, Robyn — backed by a quintet on a stage draped in what appeared to be reams of gold fabric — worked through nearly all of Honey’s nine tracks, as well as other pockets of her back catalog.
Again and again, Robyn moved with a fluidity and a command that almost made her seem like one of the crowd, someone lost in the rhythms of her own concert. Songs slipped and melted and blossomed into one another, creating the sensation of a single sonic experience — a carefully assembled playlist made manifest — intermittently broken up by applause, joyful shouts or the occasional costume change.
To see Robyn was to feel her — metaphorically, yes, but also literally. The low end pulsed for the duration of her roughly 100-minute set, augmented by washes of synthesizer and angelic vocals, threading through the disco and synthpop-tinged tunes like a gossamer strand.
While the evening’s early going of moving easily from “Indestructible” to “Hang With Me” to “Ever Again” was electrifying, Robyn and her bandmates found another gear with the hard-hitting “Love is Free,” which spilled into the main set’s final four songs: “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” “Dancing on My Own,” “Missing U” and “Call Your Girlfriend.”
Taken together, it was nearly 20 minutes of sustained euphoria — stacking propulsive, crunching beats atop glittering melodies as Robyn’s perspiring form twitched, shook, crawled, strutted and swooped from one side of the stage to another, the audience alternately lost in its own gyrations or eyes locked onto the headliner’s every move.
As much as it’s possible to be alone together, such was the case as Robyn — who let the music do most of the talking Tuesday, and scarcely said much more than the perfunctory “How are you, Dallas?” boilerplate — conducted a master class in calibrated sensory overload for a fortunate few, most of whom exited into Irving’s subdued cement sprawl, floating from the contact high of one of the best nights of their lives.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.