Sunday, 25 September 2016

Björk - Hammersmith Apollo. 24th September 2016. Live review

Björk - Hammersmith Apollo

Live review. 24th September 2016.

In recent years Björk has not played many live concerts outside of festivals, so when I found out that she was playing in London when I happened to be in town I jumped at the chance to get a ticket. This meant meeting up with a German punk with a 1980s British electronic pop obsession, who had flown from Berlin for the concert, and a woman who had flown in specifically from Spain to be here. Her next trip to Britain will be to see Korn and Limp Bizkit play in Glasgow. 

I know it's a song by a different Icelandic mob,
but it seemed an appropriate place for pre-gig drinks
It is fair to say that Björk has a diverse collection of admirers, as eclectic as her music has been over the years. After my German friend and I had traded stories of recent Adam Ant concerts we had been to we settled down to see what Iceland's pop pixie had dreamt up for us tonight. Sitting next to me was another guy from Glasgow. He was seeing Björk again for the first time since he saw her play the Barrowlands with The Sugarcubes in 1988. For me it was my first time, definitely one ticked off of my personal bucket list.

Björk at the Hammersmith Apollo, London 
As the lights darkened the string orchestra who would accompany her all night took their places. With an elaborate, lacey mask covering her face and dressed like a diaphanous, white jellyfish complete with dangling tendrils, she came on stage and launched into the songs from her recent Vulnicura album. When originally launched the album was co-produced by Arca and the Haxan Cloak. The lyrics told the story of the recent end of her marriage, her rising and falling voice crackling with emotion. A few months later a new version of the album was released, Vulnicura Strings; her voice, no percussion and a string section accompaniment. Seeing this live it had an almost Baroque quality to the sound. With just her voice and the Aurora chamber orchestra, here a 26-piece strings section, it's a sound that could have been made anytime in the past 450 years since the violin was invented, if anyone had ever imagined it before now. Despite it being 28 years since she sang at the Glasgow Barrowlands her distinctive voice and vocal style are undimmed. In fact I was blown away by the energy of her singing.

Björk and the Aurora Orchestra 
Her fluorescent costume flicked through various colours as she hovvered in front of the musicians, the biting History of Touches a stand out performance from the first half.

Björk at the Hammersmith Apollo 
After a quick break, and change of costume, in the second half she went through several older tracks, now given string arrangements. Dressed in red, this half had a different energy and pace, her voice the lead instrument, playing just off the rhythm of the orchestra throughout. With three songs from the 1997 album Homogenic, and The Anchor Song from her 1993 album Debut in her final encore, there was plenty for the fans that have been with her all the way to enjoy. Only at the end was I aware that I'd been grinning warmly all evening. 

Aloof, ethereal, weird, dramatic. If ever one person seems to encapsulate the place they come from, Björk seems to be Iceland, the land of ice, fire and elves, condensed into one human being. A work of art.

Holiday snaps from beautiful Iceland 

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