Sunday, February 06, 2011

Body Talks

Sometimes when life hands you a wild juxtaposition, you just have to play it as it lays. On Friday night, I attended my friend Larin Sullivan's 30th birthday party - it was Love Boat, or rather Lez Boat themed. Perhaps more importantly, it was literally two blocks from home so I spent much of the evening working on projects. Then D reminded me that Netflix came. I rushed to the little red envelope, knowing its contents. Tearing it open I popped on our evening's entertainment: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Now, I'd seen the last one a while back, even wrote of it on these pages. I'm no fan to the series, really. Never read the books, but as someone deeply invested in pop cultural forms, I'm more than happy to follow Bella and her occult posse into the dimmest Pacific Northwest forest and back.

It seems difficult to fathom, but things have become decidedly more industrial this go-around. And it's tricky to pinpoint why, but the kids are remarkably less sexy. Orbiting in their own cosmologies, these actors don't even seem to be participating in a film, but revealing their make-up and hair perf forms for a worldwide mirror. Perhaps its because the respective frankness and pop-existentialism that characterized these poorly fleshed out male love interests have become more punchlines than signatures. Constant in-jokes riddle the script, which jibes at hottie werewolf Jake, "don't you own a shirt?" so apt is this actor to parade his lupine physique. When Bella braves frostbite, Jake cuddles up to warm her, even though she's betrothed to the vampire because, "you know I'm hotter than you."

And he's right; R Pat has never looked so uncomfortable and pained. His Edward displays nothing but a desperate, whiny devotion to this all-important Bella (one must ask oneself why everyone goes to all this trouble for one maudlin little brunette). But these in-jokes save the day. These jokes reach beyond the bizarrely connect-the-dots script. Oh, Eclipse is a surprisingly enjoyable watch, it's absurd as hell, but I was riveted. It's really Soap logic - and that I adore. But these jokes, almost Shakespearean in their address to a world beyond the diegesis, hood-wink a thriving international audience of tweens to whom this conservative cosmos has become gospel. They create a metatextual layer on this series so that it becomes participatory, so that giggles can run though the audience, giggles that acknowledge space beyond of the dour perimeter of the Pacific Northwest.

The following evening, I engaged in a different participatory event, no less rabid or targeted in its market (way gay). She's come a long way since last summer's gig at Webster Hall, whose bill she shared with Kelis, but Swedish pop diva Robyn sold out the Radio City Music Hall, delivering to a packed homophilic house - the largest, she beamed, that she's ever drawn, by herself. Everything was bare-bones in an endearing way. Her two opening acts were solo performers, one of whom sang exclusively to a tape (the meh Natalia Kills). Two large pinwheels were Robyn's sole decoration. But she brought the crowd roaring to its feet as she entered the stage in a doctored fireman's jacket and platform Timberlands, launching into her Max Martin-produced 'Time Machine.'

Of course, the thrill of the night was the stellar single, 'Dancing on my Own,' which, as in last July's performance, came very early on in the set. I imagine it's what opening night at Eclipse felt like. The entire crowd just swills together on the thrill of hearing this, their song. It's a loner song, so it's your song, which makes it feel all the more ecstatic when 5 or so thousand people tap into this with you, sharing your unmitigated delight. And Robyn works hard to make her set feel all about you. She has the rare quality of a performer who can address an audience and make it feel direct, intimate. Diana Ross has that, too. She takes every opportunity, 3 or 4 times a song, to visit with the front row, dipping her hand in or slipping down into the pit. Last night she tore up the rafters alongside the theater, all the way up to the balcony, throwing herself into the gaping arms of those fans who only made it second tier. She don't care!

In truth, it was a slightly less taut show than the one that she performed with Kelis. Her performance style is nothing short of buoyant - she jumps, runs, dances like a little Swedish she-devil, all without missing a note (last night she even toppled over, falling on her butt during 'Call Your Girlfriend' - there too without a second's lag). But she's also been touring an entire year now, and there's a mild fatigue there. She's performing material, mostly culled from the Body Talk series, with all of Part 3 on offer. She sounds good, looks good, but, as in Eclipse, it's the moments where she dips outside the idiom and just revels at her accomplishments with her fans that makes the evening so memorable. Her smile cuts through the music, this dancing and joy feels like the point, the music a platform for it.


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