Considering her enormous amount of unbridled energy, I’d have to say Björk’s plunge into dance music was as wise a career move as John Travolta accepting the Vincent Vega role in “Pulp Fiction.” She personifies clubland at its most innocently goofy, her cheeky, violent happiness possessing her like some wide-eyed kid on a virgin hit of Ecstasy. But unlike perpetually smiling groovers like, say, Deee-Lite— whose new age, mushroom-capped, have-a-nice-day sentiments evoke something akin to Donovan-with- turntables—Björk’s got a few skeletons in her romper room. When “Hyper-ballad” swells to its rhythmic crescendo and Björk scuttles to the edge of the stage, the exhilarated throng flailing their arms in the air seem oblivious that Björk is techno-fantasizing about standing on the edge of a cliff, imagining what her body might sound like slamming against the ground.
Björk is not the first crooner to embrace techno. U2, for example, mine clubland for the purpose of deconstructing their gods-of-’80s-rock image. But Björk’s transition from alternative rock to samplers and other neat gadgetry is more instinctual. Beginning her show on her knees in the dark, her voice immediately sent the crowd into a tizzy with the opening lines of “Headphones,” a hushed, ambient ode to a DJ’s mix tape. “My headphones they saved my life,” she twistedly warbled. “Your tape it lulled me to sleep.” Clutching one ear and squinting her eyes, absorbing the music inside her head into her body, Björk turned sound into stimulus. A handful of songs later, during “Enjoy,” she wailed about wishing there could be sex without touching and everyone succumbed to the big beats, immersing themselves in Björk’s fantasy.
Throughout the likes of “Army Of Me” and “Human Nature,” Björk was as engrossingly silly as one of those sing-a-long dots that bounce on top of “Sesame Street” subtitles. I’ve seen many a show at the Academy, but I never felt its floor shake ; during “Violently Happy,” I thought maybe someone might have snuck something into the coffee I had before the show. On the other hand, soothing journeys like “Isobel,” “Possibly Maybe,” and “Venus As A Boy” provided some chilled-out tranquillity.
Nothing quite prepared me for the huge grin of an encore that was “It’s Oh So Quiet.” This Sinatra-like, big-band swinger gave her the chance to channel her quirkiness into one hell of a camped-up show stopper. The result was utterly euphoric and rather comforting : even if Björk pulls a Linda Rondstadt down the line (working old standards with big band leader Nelson Riddle, etc.) you can bet her whacked-out sensibilities will make anything she handles something special. “It takes courage to enjoy it,” she whispered, backed only by a church organ before walking offstage for good. Björk’s “it” is a big time sensuality, which is just another phrase for what happens when Björk has her way with music and sound.