Think of autumn as sweet revenge for the nostalgic excesses of the summer concert season. There’s always been something about the sound of falling leaves that sends blockbuster dinosaurs into hibernation and draws pop’s intelligentsia from its aural lair.
Fall 2001 is no exception. Highlighting popular music’s art-house season is the return of avant- electronica’s reigning queen, Björk Guðmundsdóttir—call her Björk for short—on tour to promote her exquisite new album, “Vespertine.” Her first Bay Area appearance in three years, the Oct. 17 show at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre, promises to remain true to her CD’s vast symphonic arrangements with a crew of musicians rich in musical diversity and range.
Members include electric harpist Zeena Parkins, playing a one-of-a-kind harp she invented herself, and the Il Novecento Orchestra, conducted by Simon Lee. Backing vocalists range from a Northern Canadian throat singer to an Inuit girls’ choir Björk discovered while vacationing in Greenland. San Francisco’s own electronic sound auteurs, Martin Schmidt and Drew Daniel, better known as the duo Matmos, will be the opening act.
Björk’s choice of venues has been as focused as her selection of musicians. Per her request that concert sites have excellent acoustics, the “Vespertine” tour will play only in theaters and opera houses, from the Dorothy Chandler Theatre in Los Angeles to Radio City Music Hall in New York to the Lyric Opera House in Chicago. In England, shortly before the U.S. leg of her tour, Björk will make history when she becomes the first pop singer to perform at London’s National Opera House.
If one night at the Paramount just isn’t enough, local Björk aficionados are advised to keep all fingers and toes crossed for the possibility of an extra treat : The Icelandic One will also be performing a limited number of surprise concerts in smaller venues to allow her to sing without a sound system. These additional gigs will be announced day of show, so when they’re not contorting their digits for luck, Bay Area fans should also keep their eyes painfully peeled for updates (just don’t go out in public like that).
Tori Amos, another visionary singer-songwriter whose music defies convention by blending the classical and pop genres, will be staging a show of her own Nov. 11 at the Paramount. Her forthcoming album, “Strange Little Girls” (Sept. 18), breaks down gender as well as genre barriers with its covers of male- written hits such as Lou Reed’s “New Age,” the Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and, in a beautiful act of interpretive perversion, Eminem’s “ ’97 Bonnie & Clyde.”
Fall also marks the touring debut of a supergroup for the thinking class, Oysterhead—Trey Anastasio (Phish), Miles Copeland (the Police) and Les Claypool (Primus)—which will play Oct. 26 at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre in conjunction with its CD release.
Of course, there’s the timeless Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, sweeping into the Oakland Arena for two extremely sold-out nights Sept. 5-6. Madge is both eternal and ever-changing ; as such, she belongs with autumn’s innovators, as both a work of art and a piece of work. Just don’t call her an artifact.
Blowsy summer retro has deep-sixed—for now—and change is in the air. Celebrate the new, for as Nina Hagen sang on her space-age bachelorette-pad album, “Nunsexmonkrock,” the future is now.