Show Review: Robyn, Kelis, and Dan Black at Mezzanine, 7/24/10

by Kara Murphy on July 27, 2010

Robyn and Kelis share a hug during the final encore song.

On a chilly Saturday night, I exited my car, parked on 6th Street and Howard, clad in black stiletto ankle boots and a form-fitting black/white striped dress accented with a scant red cardigan that provided a bit of warmth en route to Mezzanine – located a few blocks away. Normally, I’m a jeans and hoodie kind of gal when it comes to attending live shows. However, since my Spinning Platters colleague, Dakin Hardwick, and I were meeting Dan Black, one of the opening acts on the All Hearts tour, co-headlined by Robyn and Kelis, for an in-person interview, I felt an overwhelming urge to dress up.

I will admit the dressing up part was not only a bit ridiculous, but also a potential liability as I navigated my way through one of the seediest parts of downtown San Francisco this side of the Tenderloin. Two pimps propositioned me while a few incoherent bums staggered towards me suggestively. As I swiftly dodged any potentially hazardous encounters and made my way down Jessie Street alley, I was instantly relieved to encounter a long line of fans eagerly awaiting to be let inside the venue followed by Dakin in the press line accompanied by Dan Black, himself, and his manager.

Dan Black

One of the greatest benefits of attending SXSW Music festival is the fundamental fact that you will unwittingly discover a few amazing new artists you might have never heard of otherwise. Dan Black was one of those for me and while I could not even recall the event where I saw him perform (it was the second-to-last day of a booze-induced week and I was a bit fuzzy, to say the least), he made enough of an impression that when I returned to reality, I immediately purchased a copy of his latest album, Un.

During the brief interview that took place down the street at a small lounge called Anu, Dan revealed he wasn’t too thrilled with being pigeonholed as a “wonky pop” (WP) artist – a label attributed to a myriad of diverse artists that create “quirky, catchy, and credible pop.” He’s in good company with viable, established artists such as Of Montreal and his brand of catchy (without being cloying which is more than can be said for peers Mika and Lady Gaga), crafty pop has a timeless appeal.

Dan Black

A half an hour later, he was onstage moving rhythmically to the music including hit songs “Symphonies” and “U + Me,” jumping around, and waving his fists in the air in an endearing manner that indicated he was truly absorbing the energy from the crowd along with the rhythms pulsing from the stage. It left a smile on my face but also left me yearning for more. At a little over forty minutes in length with no encore, the set was far too short and to exacerbate my dismay, an entire hour passed without word of when Kelis would take to the stage.

As Dakin and I sat outside near a throng of smokers discussing the intricacies of his last interview with Gwar, we were suddenly interrupted by a frantic stampede of fans rushing the gates of the patio to get a glimpse of Kelis – who sheepishly arrived through the venue’s back entrance looking a bit dazed in jean shorts and a grey sweatshirt. She smiled politely and I thought to myself “great, it’ll be another hour before we’re going to see her perform.”

Kelis

Luckily, I was wrong as 15 minutes later, Kelis was on stage and ready to go in an ensemble that I immediately interpreted as an homage to Cleopatra. The short, blunt, beaded wig and bodysuit with hieroglyphic-like graphics indicated something of the sort anyway. I must say, for a single Mom, she has an incredible figure and looked fantastic, overall. Therefore, I was a bit surprised that she took a defensive stance before the first song even began by stating in a bit of a hoarse tone “If you feel like being judgmental, you should probably go.”

Once her slightly apologetic, self-deprecating introductory monologue concluded, Kelis launched into the first two tracks off her latest, will.i.am produced dance-pop album, Flesh Tone. And this is where I was thrown off and pleasantly surprised in the same instance.

I’ve always thought of Kelis as the girl who got her first big break as a guest star on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s hit track “Got Your Money” followed up by her own R&B singles including “Bossy” and the unforgettable classic, “Milkshake.” The former wife of rapper Nas, who divorced her right before their first child was born, I realized that this radical departure from the signature genre of music that initially made her famous might be her own therapeutic method of dealing with a reality she may have never envisioned for herself.

Kelis works it…

The entire set was comprised of one dance hit after another – either from Flesh Tone or from the likes of everyone from Madonna to Eurythmics. “Milkshake,” “Baby I Got Your Money,” and “Bossy” got the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type treatment as they were quickly shuffled out of the mix as soon as they appeared. This only verified that Kelis was more interested in leaving the past behind and embracing her new persona – a modern-day Donna Summer, if you will. By the time the closing track, “Acapella,” started playing, Kelis looked radiant. Clearly, this was the style of music she felt most comfortable performing.

Robyn was all sugar and sass.

When Robyn, the petite international pop-powerhouse, took to the stage, the place was packed to the hilt with fans eagerly waiting for their idol to embark on one of her legendary performances. It was hard to maneuver in the crowd too much as she launched into “Fembot” from Body Talk, Pt. 1 (the sequel is due September 25th). Robyn has faced down her own career obstacles including troubles with various labels but her whole persona embodies one of a confident, not to mention determined fighter.

She glided effortlessly across the stage through each song and enthralled the crowd with an extended set of “Dancing on My Own” where she reinforced the fact that you don’t need a man unless he’s the right one for you. The positive energy of the set was thorough and consistent. Of course, Robyn emerged for a three-song encore since the crowd clearly hadn’t had enough. While I would’ve liked to hear “Handle Me,” I realized the somewhat snarky tune might have been a little bit out of place in an evening where the major, unifying theme was “love.”

Take the love with you…

For the final song, Robyn brought co-headliner Kelis out, who was adorned in black jeans, a lacy sweater top, and her own raspberry colored coif, to help her perform one of her greatest and most sentimental tracks, “With Every Heartbeat.” It was the perfect conclusion and Robyn encouraged everyone to take the positive energy and love emanating throughout the room with them that night.

This was the second stop on the All Hearts tour. For a full set of larger pictures, please check out my Flickr set here.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna September 7, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I will have the great pleasure of seeing DAN BLACK in concert this Thursday(9/9) in NYC…I am so excited b/c i love the songs on this album, and I can’t wait to hear him LIVE!!

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Kara September 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm

You should be excited as he is amazing live. Lots of energy. Enjoy the show and thanks for the comment!

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