The Bjork concert at the Point Depot last night was quite unlike any gig I have ever been to. On the way in to the vast arena (which currently styles itself as the 3Arena) I had no idea what to expect. My companion had warned me that there was no support act and that apparently the show (which is called ‘Cornucopia’) would start on time at 8pm. Glancing around I could guess that most of the audience was – like myself – of a mid-season vintage. We took our seats in block H which is located slightly to the left of the stage and waited.
The stage was covered with a white curtain with colourful emblems imprinted on it. At 8.15 the show started when Iceland’s 18 piece Hamrahlid Choir (of which Bjork was a member as a teenager) trouped out on stage and with their conductor and performed choral arrangements of traditional Icelandic songs and some Bjork numbers. The conductor gamely tried to get the crowd to sing along – we were having none of it. About twenty minutes into the show Bjork herself appeared, dressed in an elaborate pink/orange gown that I think was meant to resemble a prawn?
Sticking mainly to songs from her albums ‘Utopia’ and ‘Vulnicura’, she takes us under the sea and into outer space with her experimental vision – with images and films evocative of sea life surrounding the stage (through means of the moving screen) . She was accompanied by a seven piece band which included a harpist and a flute ensemble who helped to take us into the soundscape of her mind.
It was all very strange and wonderful. With full disclosure I will admit that while I like Bjork, I would not be a fanatic – and she seems to inspire many of those with her singular vision of the world. My knowledge of her music does not extend far beyond the 1990s. It’s not that I don’t respect and appreciate her – it’s just that I can be quite basic when it comes to my musical tastes – Kylie Minogue or Dolly Parton in tassles and tambourines sends me to heaven.
I didn’t know any of the pieces she performed – with the exception of ‘Venus as a boy’ which was accompanied by a flautist. It didn’t matter – this wasn’t simply a live gig – it was a musical show; a theatrical piece; an art installation performed through music; an immersive experience. The underwater theme continued throughout the show with the sounds and the visuals adding to the atmosphere. In my head I was humming ‘Under the sea’ from ‘The Little Mermaid’
Visually the show was extravagant. The audience were silent throughout most of it. This didn’t mean we weren’t enjoying ourselves – it’s just that there was so much to take in. Many singers claim to be artists. I think Bjork however can lay claim to being an artist who sometimes sings.
Towards the end of the performance a video of Greta Thunberg appeared on the stage as she gave us a warning about the environment. Bjork then reappeared for her encore of ‘Notget’ and she encouraged us to dance. I was keen to do so, but the beautiful song ‘Notget’ sounded like a funeral lament as she sang to us that we were all safe from death. Not really dancey material. Never mind though – I was fully enveloped by Planet Bjork by this stage.
All told it was a spectacular show. Did I understand it? Of course not. That doesn’t matter though. I am lucky to have witnessed the mad scientist of music do her thing with such passion and commitment.