Review: Róisín Murphy Delivers a Shapeshifting Electropop Dance Party at the Riviera Theatre

Róisín Murphy is a powerhouse performer. The Irish electropop artist vamps, dances, and whirls from one end of the stage to the other throughout the show. She changes into a new theatrical costume for every song. After 30 years in music, her voice still rings across the dance floor. Murphy doesn’t make it to the U.S. often, and her last visit to Chicago was in 2016. When Róisín Murphy comes to town, you don’t miss it. 

This visit accompanied the release of Murphy’s Hit Parade Remixes album in May, featuring remixes of her September 2023 album Hit Parade. While the album arrived to critical acclaim, some fans withdrew their support after a private Facebook post circulated where Murphy criticized the use of puberty blockers for transgender children. In an apology statement, she bowed out of further commentary on the issue stating, “...my true calling is music and music will never exclude any of us.”

Indeed, fans came together for the music, packing the Riviera dance floor. Murphy strutted onstage in a black fur coat with a matching mane headpiece and kicked off the set with “Pure Pleasure Seeker” from her time in the electronic duo Moloko. The lights dimmed and fog flooded the stage as the first notes of “Dear Miami” began. Murphy reappeared looking very Miami Vice in black sunglasses and a white blazer.

“It’s so good to see you Chicago,” she smiled beneath a black top hat and oversized jacket. Murphy mostly let her music do the talking throughout the evening, interjecting a few times to express her gratitude to everyone who made it to the show. The undeniable beat and synths of “Simulation” got the crowd grooving while Murphy crouched at the edge of the stage and extended her hand to them. She kept the energy up as the crowd jumped up and down to “Overpowered.” Wearing white sunglasses and a black leather top folded to resemble origami or a spiky Pokémon, Murphy aimed the mic at the crowd to sing the chorus before headbanging amid flashing lights. 

Backed by a five-piece band swapping duties on drums, guitar, keyboard, bass, and drum machine, Murphy slowed things down with the R&B vibe of “CooCool” (complete with a beret and feather boa) and funky “The Universe'' (hugging fans in the crowd) from Hit Parade before amping things up with the pulsing beat of “You Knew” from the same album. She effortlessly transitioned from singing beneath what looked like a Victorian funeral top hat and veil on the slow burning “Something More,” to changing out of her overcoat while belting “Let Me Know.” Moloko classic “Sing It Back” made a brief appearance before transitioning into disco anthem “Murphy’s Law” that had every pair of hips moving. 

As if Murphy’s own costumes and showmanship weren’t enough of a visual treat, a camera onstage projected the crowd on the screen behind the band for much of the show, essentially making the audience part of the art. During “Can’t Replicate,” Murphy sang directly to the camera comedically shadow boxing and dancing in front of it as her close up was projected in black and white. She licked her lips and pointed the camera down her throat, holding the pose while the audience roared. Wearing a top hat as she flexed her arms and licked her muscles, Murphy was the ringleader of her own circus. Her art has always been an ecstatic celebration of self-expression—here’s hoping that support extends offstage.

All photos by Jessica Mlinaric.

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Jessica Mlinaric

Jessica Mlinaric is a writer, photographer and cat mom. Her first book on the strange and secret corners of Chicago is forthcoming from Reedy Press. Jessica founded urbnexplorer.com in 2010 to share stories about cities and their cultures. Right now, she is probably at a concert or volunteering at 826CHI. She tweets at @urbnexplorer.