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Robyn Takes the Party to New York City

The Swedish dance queen focuses on music, not spectacle, at her Madison Square Garden show.

Fans wonder what the set for Lady Gaga’s final leg of the Monster Ball will look like, and what the air at Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour will smell like. For the 6,000 folks (including a handful of artfully dressed drag queens) packed into New York’s Radio City Music Hall to see Robyn Saturday night, there was only one concern: What was she going to play?

Robyn’s live show is traditionally light on theatrics and heavy on hits, and as she’s leapt from the 550-person capacity Music Hall of Williamsburg to the city’s second-largest venue in just seven months, she hasn’t changed the formula a bit. She bounded onstage to “Time Machine” from her three-part 2010 “Body Talk” disc and broke into arm-heavy dance moves as her symmetrically arranged backing band — two drummers, two keyboardists — rocked out in white lab coats.

The aesthetic is antiseptic because Robyn’s best songs are like musical heart surgery — medicine to soothe wounded lovers. The audience screamed along loudest to her most aching anthems “Dancing on My Own,” “Indestructible,” “Hang With Me,” and “With Every Heartbeat,” a quartet of clubby disco tunes built on glimmering synths that describe the wrenching dissolution of relationships and tender beginnings of new ones. Before she sang Röyksopp’s “The Girl and the Robot,” she shouted, “Love is hard!” A fan yelled back, “Tell me about it, sister!”

Of the 19 songs on the set list, only six came from albums other than “Body Talk,” demonstrating the Swedish singer’s faith in her new material. With the exception of “U Should Know Better” — a jittery uptempo featuring Snoop Dogg on the LP that was reworked as a sing-songy slow jam for the show — she nailed it. While Robyn got playful dancing to newer songs, breaking into the robot for “Fembot” and doing a saucy grind to “Dancehall Queen,” she showed off most sassiness spitting the tough-girl lyrics to “Cobrastyle” and “Konichiwa Bitches.”

Her outfit — platform hiking boots, splotchy printed jeggings, a green tank top, and a variety of jackets — screamed “working girl” rather than “pop princess,” which is probably exactly what the low-key Robyn wanted. Whenever she wasn’t singing, she’d plop down the microphone and throw herself into moves that showed off her club-kid roots.

The audience also came to dance, and the seats at Radio City did little to hamper the groove-busting from the front row to the second mezzanine. Robyn even paid the lower balcony two visits, jetting up the stairs on either side of the stage and into the outstretched arms of her screeching fans.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve pulled by myself,” she announced during an extended thank you in the first encore. The audience returned the affection all night, offering encouraging cheers after she slipped dancing to “Call Your Girlfriend.” And as always, Robyn closed the night with a deconstructed version of her 1997 hit “Show Me Love.” That is, after all, what she’s all about.

Set List:
Time Machine
Dancing on My Own
We Dance to the Beat/Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do
Love Kills
The Girl and the Robot
Call Your Girlfriend
Stars 4-Ever
Get Myself Together
Dancehall Queen
Hang With Me
With Every Heartbeat
U Should Know Better
Konichiwa Bitches
Dancing Queen (ABBA) / Show Me Love