August 5: Robyn and Kelis Complete the All Hearts Tour at Webster Hall in NYC (Concert Review)

“Where da fuck is you at, ho?”

On August 5, the All Hearts Tour made its final stop at Webster Hall in New York City, featuring the Far East Movement, Dan Black, Kelis, and Robyn. I attended that concert, and this is what I have to say about it.

When my friend Eric and I arrived at Webster Hall around six, the bar was already full with waiting fans buzzing about. After claiming our free Cherrytree Records label sampler on the sidewalk (Natalia Kills! Agnes! Kelis and Robyn!), we quickly squeezed into the stuffed room, running in the moment the doors were finally opened to the crowd.

The priorities were immediately taken care of: “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do” tee? Check. Front row positioning? Check. Camera settings test? Check. And so began the wait.

This happened. I’m still not sure why.

Almost immediately after we wedged our way into the front of the crowd–about three rows deep at that point–the tour openers came out in rapid succession. Far East Movement provided some danceable, LMFAO-friendly party anthems (perhaps a bit too similar in moments) and Dan Black his indie-electro pop anthems, I have to be honest: I was there solely for Robyn and Kelis. As a result, I don’t have much to say about them. Sorry about it.

Then came the ‘air situation,’ which will do me no favors in perpetuating stereotypes about Jews and the heat. While the AC seemed to circulate during the first two openers, it was painfully, disgustingly apparent that it had completely ceased by the time Dan Black and crew cleared the stage. It deeply displeased the gays.

“Bitch, get out here already!” whined one. “Someone turn on a damn fan!” came another. There was also my personal favorite: “Da fuck you at, ho?”, which resulted in a smattering of giggles each time. Despite the various attempts to fan ourselves and/or disrobe, the body glitter was fast beginning to drip down to the floor.

At around 8:30, the lights dimmed, the microphone glowed fluorescent, and Kelis took to the stage. The singer, dressed in a shimmering metallic blue one-piece catsuit not unlike her Sea Monkeys-inspired piece, smiled calmly and began to launch into a mini-monologue about tolerance and unity. I think, anyway.

Sadly, the crowd mostly drowned out her words. “I’m trying to get you guys to answer back,” she half-whined, laughing deeply and rolling her eyes. She returned to her initial point: “I will not judge,” she instructed us to repeat. “I will not judge!” The crowd responded. “…Because we control the dance floor,” she commanded. The crowd returned the call. She repeated it again; the crowd thunderously echoing it back. There. That was better.

Before the crowd could applaud their group effort, the grinding synthesizers of Kelis’ gay anthem, “Emancipate” rocketed into the venue, turning the entire floor into a ballroom of fierce poses and snapping wrists.

Kelis provided a powerhouse performance of sex, sass, and soul. Tackling some classics (“Trick Me”) and some covers (Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s “Got Your Money”) along the way, the singer performed almost the entirety of her latest album for the crowd, including “22nd Century,” “4th Of July (Fireworks),” “Scream,” “Acapella,” and “Emancipate.” And, of course, there was “Brave.”

As you all might well already know, “Brave” isn’t just an album favorite, but one of my favorite songs of the year. So as the stinging electronic beats entered the speakers, I had what we in the industry like to call a “moment.” More specifically, I grabbed my friend’s arm–a bit too hard–and began jumping like a loon and lightly convulsing.

In contrast, Kelis played it stone cold cool with her delivery of the track, singing the song pitch perfect and stepping back during the song’s chaotic explosion of grinding synths to allow the beat to speak for itself.

“Milkshake” was, of course, another crowd favorite, made all the better (and gayer) thanks to a mash-up with Madonna‘s “Holiday.” “Work, bitch…WORK!” one group offered to my left. And so she did.

These hips don’t lie.

I’d like to take a moment to show some appreciation for Kelis’ hips at this point. Never have I ever seen a woman work and twerk her body the way Kelis did that night–shimmying and sashaying in a way that would have Shakira blushing.

By the time Kelis casually strutted off stage, the entire audience was consumed in a sweat, semi-stunned by the sheer energy of the singer’s performance. It was an incredible performance. How was it exactly that this concert was only halfway over?

After about a half hour of set up, the lights faded to black again. A voice-over began to announce Robyn’s arrival–sort of like an updated version of “Curriculum Vitae” from Robyn’s 2005 record. The lights began to flicker and the bass boomed, making the entire venue feel like a rocket was about to make a crash landing.

Out walked Robyn, or rather–strutted, with a cool smirk and a bossy swagger. As she took to the mic, a fat bass began to grind and electronic noises began to pulsate, prompting the singer to gyrate and moan in delight, punching the air with an energy that wouldn’t cease until the closing note of her set. And then she started to sing “Fembot.”

Gays: Do you know the part in Moulin Rouge when Zidler selects the Can Can as the dance of choice and the entire place erupts into a chaotic frenzy of dancing and screaming to the point where you couldn’t quite tell whether people were celebrating or going into epileptic shock? That was Robyn’s set.

The singer put on a show like no other, stopping just once for a swig of water and a quick sit-down in front of the keyboardist during a dance-laden set that lasted over an hour. Apart from that, she was a dancing fool; refusing to stop between songs. Instead of breaks between tracks she performed dance interludes, raging against manic strobe lights as though she were exorcising her demons for all to see.

The Robyn I saw last week at the iHeartRadio taping was hardly the Robyn on stage at Webster Hall this night. Growling, grinding, thrashing, and taunting, the singer was an unstoppable force of bossiness and brattitude. She worked the stage like no one’s business, often approaching the crowd (and myself) within an inch of touching someone’s outstretched hand, squinting her eyes and swiveling her head curiously. “Oh, what?” she’d mouth to the crowd member. “You want some of this?”

Perhaps the most impressive and awe-inspiring aspect of Robyn as a performer is her indescribable presence and performance quality. She weaves in and out of attitudes–at one moment sweetly chirping “Thank you all so much for coming tonight!”, the next, on the floor grinding against the stage and flipping the bird to the crowd. There is no other artist that even comes close to delivering the performance Robyn can with simply a mic and a stage alone other than Madonna.

The singer certainly stuck with the uptempo side of things, including the fist-pump friendly “Cobrastyle,” and her collaboration with Royksopp, “The Girl and The Robot,” delivered while basking in an eerie green glow.

Midway through her set, Robyn took a rare, highly deserved moment to herself as “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do,” the intro track from Body Talk Pt. 1 and unofficial All Hearts anthem boomed overhead. The singer swung a sweat towel around her neck, and pulling out–what else? A banana. Literally right in front of me, she peeled and ate the banana, staring down the audience like a bad boss bitch. It was fantastic. I just wish she shared a bite.

Of course, there was her latest single from Body Talk Pt. 1, “Dancing On My Own,” which was performed to the pinnacle of perfection. The same fierce choreography, the same solid vocal performance. Nothing beats that moment when she steps away from the mic for a brief power snap backward–except, of course, the rapid-fire punch-the-air mania of the bridge. AMAZING. I just wish she’d punch out the mic again!

To my great surprise, Robyn also whipped out a treat from her self-titled 2005 record, an electro-enhanced re-rub of one of my favorite songs from the singer, “Who’s That Girl?” Donning a beret, the singer sauntered her way across the floor to the song’s killer beats, and, approaching the drum set, began furiously banging out a quick drum solo before throwing out her drumsticks into a swarming sea of wanting fans. Delicious.

By the end of the show, all sense of decency was out the window. Shirts were strewn and dangling as cameras, now visibly dripping and slipping between fingers, fought against waves of people thrashing to Robyn’s unbelievable performances. The entire venue was flailing and swaying–so much so that the floor below us began to wobble uncomfortably underneath our feet. Even the uptight, pretentious gay to my right with his hands folded that did nothing but sip a beer the whole night broke out into a somewhat vigorous head-bob. (But seriously, who does that at a concert? And in the front row, no less?)

After the show’s “ending” (there’s always an encore), Robyn quickly popped back onto the stage for two more songs: “Dream On” and “With Every Heartbeat,” two of her most anthemic tracks.

“And it hurts with every heartbeat!” the crowd shouted back breathlessly in the final seconds of Robyn’s set. With a final wide grin, Robyn held up her hands together to form a heart shape in between her fingers and thumbs. A thousand more greeted her from the audience, thus concluding the All Hearts Tour in the most literal sense.

When we somehow found our way back to the hotel following the show, we could do nothing but crawl onto the ground and moan in pain. As a famous Swedish songstress might say: My legs were killing me. My neck was killing me. My arms were killing me. It literally felt like I’d just gotten beaten up–and really, we did. Robyn and Kelis had sonically punched us in the gut, leaving us lying on the floor, panting and otherwise motionless.

Officially speaking, the All Hearts Tour was unmistakably, undoubtedly, and indubitably one of the greatest and most exciting concert experiences I’ve ever had.


Many thanks and so much love to Muuser Eric H. for joining me for this most epic of adventures, as well as selected photos above.

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