Robyn at the Paramount
March 1, 2019 in Seattle
Words and Photos by Victoria Holt
A dreamy, billowing white-fabric-clad stage was bathed in light March 1 at the Paramount as the sleepy opening synths of “Send to Robyn Immediately” hummed into life. The band laid the foundations of the hypnotic beat as Swedish singer and producer Robyn’s vocals sounded from somewhere offstage. The crowd screamed as they heard her voice, dying to catch a glimpse of her. She emerged slowly, pausing next to a giant white statue of many-layered hands pointing skyward, as if in exultant dance.
“Tonight,” Robyn crooned, rolling her neck and stretching her shoulders with her eyes closed, easing her way into the spotlight after nearly a decade. She started slowly, forgoing an explosive burst back onto the scene for something more thoughtful and deliberate. “If you’ve got something to say, say it immediately,” she commanded. The otherwise soft song’s lyrics had a sense of urgency, snapping the crowd’s focus sharply onto the present moment as a persistent beat unfolded.
The Swedish performer sparkled in a silver mini-dress with bejeweled red nipples and silver metallic go-go boots. The perma-nipping number had the effect of being at once highly sophisticated and highly subversive—the classiest “fuck you” to society’s male gaze. To intentionally highlight the feminine nipple is a feminist act in a world which vilified Janet Jackson’s Superbowl halftime “nip-slip,” yet uses sex to sell everything from pop stars to potato chips.
As the song’s energy grew, Robyn peppered in little cheeky movements. She flashed a smile as she flipped her hair, gave a single twirl on the spot, or raised her arms above her head to give one powerful turn of her hips. These bursts of energy elicited screams of pleasure from the audience and grew with every nugget she threw them. This playfulness and quirky humor, all while delivering a breathtaking performance, made it a quintessentially Robyn evening.
Six songs in, with a few heady tracks from last year’s Honey and fan-favorite “Indestructible” under her belt, Robyn took a costume change break while dancer Theo Canham-Spence performed an interlude. Robyn re-emerged for “Because It’s in the Music” clad in a black blouse and trousers, the same bejeweled nipples visible on a red tank top underneath. Canham-Spence held up a black velvet bomber jacket for the singer, and as the track exploded into disco goodness, Robyn made a punching movement, dancing arm by arm into the jacket to screams from the crowd.
By the time the set reached ‘90s-esque club banger “Between the Lines,” the crowd was a rolling mass of dancing bodies. Robyn powered through some of her most-loved tracks, including epic sing-along “Dancing on my Own,” during which the crowd delivered the entire chorus unaccompanied to a visibly moved Robyn.
Kicking off the night were two DJ sets from U.K. producer Kindness and a live set by L.A. group Channel Tres. Robyn has collaborated with Kindness, most notably on the track “Who Do You Love,” which the former featured at the end of her headlining set. On the decks, Kindness perfectly blended disparate elements like the vocals from Robyn’s “Baby Forgive Me” with the horns from Chic’s “I Want Your Love.” The DJ sets were well-stocked with favorites like Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj, all with beefed-up beats and added house elements
Channel Tres served up Detroit house layered over exquisitely low vocals. He was joined onstage by two dancers, prompting cheers from the crowd as the three figures would break into synchronized moves. Tracks like “Controller,” “Jet Black,” and “Topdown” loosened things up nicely, setting the tone for the party to come.
Robyn sings with a straightforward conviction that makes her all the more relatable and trustworthy as a songwriter. She is at once perfect and imperfect, a real person who’s been through real experiences, yet can command a stage in front of thousands.
Since 2010’s Body Talk, she has faced the frustrations of a break-up and make-up with boyfriend Max Vitali, as well as the death of her close friend and mentor Christian Falk. Rather than keep these struggles private, she harnesses their emotional power to imbue her work with a depth sometimes lost in pop. Our culture is inundated with images of womxn who are flawless and idealized, but who don’t seem to exist in the same world as the listener. She has a way of breaking down those invisible barriers between her and her fans.
Despite the sold-out theater Friday night, Robyn made fans feel like they were out for a night of clubbing with their best friend—a charming sweetheart who wasn’t too cool to shimmy her shoulders, shake her butt, and laugh at herself.
As Robyn sang such seemingly vapid lyrics as “Never gonna be broken hearted ever again,” it was understood not as an act of denial, but as a statement of utter self-love—for a heart that knows its own worth can’t be shattered from without.
Below are some of my favorite shots from the night. Check out additional photos in this album on our Flickr page.
Send to Robyn Immediately
Never Will Be Mine (Rye Rye featuring Robyn)
Interlude with dancer Theo Canham-Spence
Because It’s in the Music
Between the Lines
Hang With Me
Love is Free (Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique)
Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do
Dancing on my Own
Call Your Girlfriend
With Every Heartbeat
Who Do You Love (Kindness featuring Robyn)