A Heavenly Experience
Call me sappy, but when I walked into Union Chapel, already London’s loveliest venue, and saw it heaped with candles, I could have cried at the prettiness. The moment Björk began to sing, I did.
Reviews can’t do Björk justice ; listening to her records can’t prepare you for the scintillating wonder of her voice. It reels with contrasts, at once caressing and corrosive.
This was an acoustic show, the amplification limited to a few microphones hanging overhead, and hearing that voice straight was startling. Björk emits such indescribable sounds : airy letters erupting in perfectly enunciated words, peculiarly lustrous squeals, a high note of such softness it makes classical sopranos seem outrageously gaudy.
Meld Björk’s enthralling, subtle performance with the understated but equally heart-stopping playing of the Brodsky Quartet, and something extraordinarily heavenly happens. Björk is renowned for radically altering songs on stage and what she achieved with the Brodskys surpassed all expectations.
Reclaiming Play Dead from ad-land, the subdued volume and the Brodskys’ bristling tone brought out the fierceness of Björk’s words. For Possibly Maybe the music was as rhythmic and seemingly unwavering as a heartbeat, but ended on a deep note of uncertainty. The bold chords of 5 Years had such surging energy, they inspired a wide-eyed Björk to flap her arms as if she might take off.
There was something bird-like about her movements, from her fluttery nervousness to her manner of standing, head cocked, waiting for the music to invite her in. Impish yet elegant in her pink gingham dress and leggings, Björk stamped her bare feet, scrunched up her hem in excitement and communicated with the audience with facial expressions.
Over two hours, Björk rejuvenated her back catalogue. The surprises weren’t limited to her own music, however : the cover of Petula Clark’s Downtown, played with uplifting enthusiasm, was inspired. For all their sensible demeanour, the Brodskys are as mischievous as Björk : they opened It’s Oh So Quiet with a lulling snatch of Silent Night, then proceeded with a gorgeous mixture of grace and twinkly, almost cheeky exuberance. Concert of the year ? I’ll still be talking about this when I’m 73.
Maddy Costa - Review du guardian