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Boston Calling 2016: Robyn

Robyn – Boston Calling Spring 2016
Robyn performs at Boston Calling on Saturday, May 28.

There’s nothing quite like that moment at a concert when you hear the first notes of a song you know by heart. For the next few minutes, you can sing along unabashedly, your mediocre voice overpowered by the artist’s own—for a few minutes it’s only you, the artist, and a song you adore.

In her headlining set on Saturday, May 28, of Boston Calling, Robyn did not afford her fans many of these moments. She made the unconventional move of performing not the original studio versions of her songs but remixes, each of which was done by a different one of her “favorite artists in dance music,” according to an email sent to the press. Because of dance music’s focus on beats instead of vocals, Robyn was singing less than half of the time she was on stage, and the mixes did not, in general, leave her lyrics intact. Even her most ardent fans would have had trouble singing along.

But what both they and Robyn novitiates could do was dance. Every mix was well constructed and eminently danceable; they would all do wonderfully in a club setting. Robyn herself, an engaging performer and talented dancer, took full advantage of this feature. She spent much of her set dancing and leaping across the stage—movements that became even more entertaining with the aid of the large mirrors she used as set pieces. Frequently a backup dancer joined her on stage; and despite the almost 90-degree heat, the dancer valiantly moved in time to the beat the entire time that she was on stage. As a concert, Robyn’s remixed performance was somewhat bizarre; as a dance party, her performance was wildly entertaining.

About two-thirds of the way through her set, Robyn did throw a bone to those who had hoped for a straightforward concert. The version of “Dancing on My Own,” a remix by Cassius, for the most part retained the song’s lyrics in their original order, and the crowd sang along enthusiastically. The remix moved much of the song from a major to a minor key and added a more persistent and danceable beat. “Dancing on My Own” thus represented something of a best of both worlds: danceability and singability blended together in a single remix. Particularly given that the song is one of Robyn’s best known, “Dancing on My Own” constituted perhaps the most enjoyable and participatory moment of the evening.

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—Staff writer Grace E. Huckins can be reached at grace.huckins@thecrimson.com.

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