Few artists have maintained such perpetual integrity as Björk, an artist that has earned respect worldwide for doing everything on her own terms. Following the disbandment of The Sugarcubes, she chose to take a step outside of the comfort zone of guitar-based rock towards ambient electronica. The success of Debut (her first commercial release as a solo artist) made her one of the 90’s most unlikely stars and since then she has invigorated popular culture by consistently offering something unique and left-field to the main stream majority. Tonight she closes Bestival 2011 on the Main Stage as her final UK performance this year, and to say that anticipations are high would be an understatement.
You never quite know what you are going to get from a Björk set, which provokes an excitement beyond that of your usual festival headliner. Opening with Thunderbolt, Björk manages to melt the hearts of the thousands amassed in front of her with that instantly recognisable voice. Whilst she is a very powerful singer in her own right, there is a fragility and innocence that makes her music very intimate and emotional. Tonight she performs with a 24 piece award-winning Icelandic female choir called Graduale Nobili, who add great depth to the overall sound with their layered, almost string-like vocals.
The setlist is mainly based around Björk’s eighth studio record Biophilia which explores the concept of nature and the world we live in. There are some breathtaking visuals projected on screens around the stage that match the lyrical themes, showing Earth in Space and parts of the world that are unspoiled by industrialisation and mankind’s irrepressible desire to revolutionize the surrounding environment. Watching Björk feels less like a concert and more like an experience.
In between songs, she is a lady of few words – very much letting the music do the talking. Interestingly there are few ‘hits’ on tonight’s setlist, with Hyperballad which is performed as an encore, being a highlight. Of course it wouldn’t be a Björk show without seeing one of her fantastic, larger-than-life dresses and tonight she is wearing a massive shark’s fin hat on top of her red, fizzy hair. The instrumentation tonight is also quite out there and at one point she uses an iPad connected to a pipe organ to create minimalist rhythms that are so airy, they verge on non-existence.
The set culminates with the release of Chinese lanterns and fireworks exploding in the sky above her, and despite her headliner status Björk seems grateful and thrilled that so many people came to hear her music – something which many artists forget on their way to stardom. Tonight Björk proves yet again what separates her from popular culture contemporaries, and we are reminded how lucky we are to have her.
Where Is the Line ?