ACL Live Review: Robyn

Everybody dance now

Straight-faced and blue-laced, Swedish pop star Robin Miriam Carlsson, 40, materialized as a disco queen bathed in love and heartache on Sunday night. Promptly at 8pm, the weekend two headliner – largely absent from live settings this past decade – turned the Honda stage into a full warehouse rave with acid squelches and pounding nightclub rhythms.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Accompanied by a fivepiece, she commanded a stage resembling an Ikea clouds display. Quirky, knotted panels of stuffing and sheer white fabric set the tone. Robyn sang near to two sculpted hands as tall as herself, possibly ready to cradle her.

photo by David Brendan Hall

A star since childhood with radio hits as far back as 2005 and still producing cult-favorite work, the singer promoted last year’s Honey almost in its entirety. A sea of witnesses sang a full chorus of “Dancing on My Own” from 2010 precursor Body Talk (at which point she mostly ceased performing publicly), and Robyn added “Call Your Girlfriend” from the same year, as well as “Be Mine!” from 2005’s Robyn. Musically, she fit the mold of ACL’s strong electronic presence, graciously thanking Detroit and Chicago as cities that gave birth to the dance music she gleans inspiration from.

Visually, Robyn avoided some contemporary pop star tropes. Spain’s urban flamenco star Rosalía, Los Angelite singer Banks, and Detroit/Houston’s rapping self-help goddess Lizzo all performed stunning sets with perfectly choreographed backup hip-hop dancers on Sunday. Not so, Robyn. She did the work of a half-dozen women on her own for an hour-and-a-half, and disarmingly so.

Joined by a single dancer in leopard pants and sneakers – who flawlessly toured and gave new possibilities to fringe-y Western shirts with his back-bends – Robyn came off as twerk-lite. And yet, she proved all the more dizzying because it was Robyn herself singing and dancing into deep squats and backward somersaults. Known for personal songwriting, the career superstar proved herself far from done on the dance floor.


Sunday, Oct. 13, 8pm, Honda stage

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Robyn, ACL Fest 2019, Robin Miriam Carlsson, Rosalîa, Banks, Lizzo

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