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In concert: Robyn and Kelis at 9:30 Club

robynRobyn was in constant motion Monday at a sold-out 9:30 Club. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Aaron Leitko

If Kelis and Robyn aren't already best friends, they should be. Even though the dance-pop divas came of age on opposite sides of the Atlantic - one in New York, the other in Sweden - they have a lot of things in common.

For instance, both showed up to their sold-out co-headlining gig at the 9:30 Club on Monday night armed with heavy percussion, booming dance beats, and gut-rattling bass. And both came toting a strong, thoroughly female pop-sensibility - big emotional hooks infused with pleasure-friendly feminism. "I've got some news for you," sang Robyn. "Fembots have feelings, too."

In a summer where Lilith Fair - the traditional ladies-first summer music fest - is sagging from soft ticket sales, Kelis and Robyn are doing their part to keep big-tent sisterhood alive.

Except that the audience was mostly male. The floor was a rowdy, sweaty, brodeo, with a XY-to-XX ratio no better than 3:1. There were gentlemen from all walks of life - guys in buttoned-down office garb, guys in Hawaiian shirts, and even a few men trussed up in headdresses. Kelis is right; her milkshake really does bring all the boys to the yard.

Robyn and Kelis' similarities run deeper than their current stage set-up, though. Both are pop music lifers who cut their teeth on R&B and spent years being passed through the hands of various producers. Both have largely put that time behind them and are entering their 30s with a new image and a focus on straight dance floor uplift.

But there are slight differences in their musical reference points. These days, Kelis is a Diana Ross woman. Robyn, who is shockingly tiny in person, is more of an anime-pixie take on Annie Lennox.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump)

kelisKelis delivered an oomph-filled set at 9:30 Club Monday. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

Performing in a silver wig alongside a drummer and two DJs, Kelis' set was an hour of unrelenting bass-oomph drawn mostly from her latest record, "Fleshtone." Arranged mixtape-style, the music shifting seamlessly from song to song, frequently after only one verse, with a few hooks borrowed from her peers (Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Your Money" was a nice surprise). Her biggest hit, "Milkshake," was given a disco facelift - set to a straight house beat and mashed up with Madonna's "Holiday." Kelis may have come up as an R&B artist, but she might have been ignoring her calling. She makes an even better disco diva.

Robyn's music is more diverse - bouncing from '80s new wave, dancehall, to house-music, sometimes during the same song. Accompanied by two drummers and two keyboard players, the Swedish singer performed an hour-and-a-half of ebullient pop. The band was great, but if you weren't looking hard, you might have missed them. Despite her size, Robyn has an overwhelming stage presence. She's in constant motion - jerking, jiving, and popping all kinds of alien-looking Eurovision Song Contest-worthy moves. She has pretty great pipes, too - her voice loaded with enough raw emotion that it sounded human even when the robot effects were switched on. Kelis has more recognizable hits, but when it come to the live show, Robyn has her beat.

It's hard to tell just how friendly Kelis and Robyn really are, though. The American and Swedish dance-pop divas announced the tour, dubbed "All Hearts," via Twitter conversation - as if the whole concept was casually put together with a latte in one hand and an iPhone in the other. But Monday night's performance had little in the way of inter-artist rapport - there were no walk-ons, no duets, not even an end-of-set hug. As much as they have in common, the joint bill is partly a marriage of convenience, a temporary alignment against mega-fabulous behemoths like Lady Gaga.

But why not keep a good thing going? Robyn and Kelis should stick together.

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By Aaron Leitko  |  August 3, 2010; 12:55 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Kelis, Robyn  
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Comments

Am I the only one who is disturbed by these crotch shots?

Also by the focus on meaningless entertainment when so many citizens are JOBLESS. I wish the media would stop writing these frivolous stories and concentrate on actually helping people. Maybe D.C. is cushioned from the horrible massive unemployment going on in much of the rest of the nation, believe me, we feel the pain, the anxiety, the worry, the dread, the hopelessness, the depression out here.

Honestly, I could not give a **** about what is going on at the 9:30 club.

Posted by: habari2 | August 3, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Dear habari2 -

It would appear that the photographer was in front of the stage. Since you have apparently never been to the 9:30, I will inform you that the stage is several feet tall, and photographers are generally not allowed to walk around the stage taking pictures during a performance.
Your other comments are even more absurd. You say "I could not give a **** about what is going on at the 9:30 club". Why, oh why, are you reading this blog? This blog is about music, much of which, in DC, occurs at the 9:30 club. I have a friendly suggestion for you - if you subscribe to the print edition, stick to the A and B sections. If not, stick to the home page of the site. If you keep seeking out articles about music, you are going to pop a gasket.

MyPostID27

Posted by: MyPostID27 | August 4, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

First at all, very good folllow up MyPostID27 to habari2's comment. I was surprised that no one had posted a comment when I saw this article the day after the concert, and some moron had to be the first one to post something that it is not even related to the article.
I attended Kelis and Robyn's concert, and I thought the ticket price was a bargain at $25 for 2 big pop/r&b stars plus 2 opening acts. I missed the first opening act that started around 6.45pm. Dan Black, the second opening act too the stage around 7.30, for about 40 minutes. It was a great performance, with minimal instruments and mostly electronic. Around 8.45 Kelis' live DJ's showed up on stage. Shortly after Kelis got on stage, looking hotter than ever in a shiny fitted mini dress and wearing a silver wig reminiscent of the disco-era. Her set was basically a continuos mix of her songs, in original and remix versions, plus samples of other songs. It was a very interesting concept. My favorite performances were the mash-up of Madonna's holiday with Kelis' Milshake, Scream, and one of her latest hit singles Acapella. The latter was Kelis' last song of the night, and she came down to the crowd to see a few of her fan who were wearing make-up and feathers as seen of the video clip for the song. Earlier in the night Kelis had noticed them, and she said "I see you". Robyn's set was straight forward pop, with a heavy electro sound. My favorite performance of the night had to be The Girl and The Robot, a track by Royksopp featuring Robyn. Unfortunately I had not been feeling well during Robyn's set and I had to step out and I missed my good spot at the third front row just a minute before my fave song started to play. At least I got to see it from the mezzanine level. The concert ended shortly after, around 11.20pm.

Posted by: ffxguy | August 4, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"Honestly, I could not give a **** about what is going on at the 9:30 club"

Yet, you felt obligated to share your totally unrelated blather. Keep it to yourself.

Posted by: fluxgirl | August 4, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

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