To her fans, Iceland’s most famous artist, electric singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Björk is “snow in the spring.” To everyone else she is perhaps the kooky character who once turned up at the Oscars dressed as a swan.
Björk is nothing if not different and she has returned to the Chinese mainland for the first time in 12 years for a one-night-only gig tomorrow night at the Shanghai International Gymnastic Center.
It’s the same venue where American jazz and blues star Norah Jones appeared in 2005.
As part of her 18-month “The Volta” tour around the world, Björk brings to Shanghai with her an all- female brass section and local organizer Emma Entertainment says the concert will be “grand, extravagant and, at times, heavy.”
The show will feature lasers and lights—created by a Chicago special effects company that has produced for Prince and Jennifer Lopez—crazy outfits and multiple costume changes.
In one and a half hours, Björk will perform about 20 songs, ranging from material from “Volta,” her most recent album released last May, to classics like “Army of Me” and “Hyperballad.”
“I feel ‘Volta’ live is much better than the album,” said Björk recently. “‘Volta’ the album is almost like the rehearsal before the tour. The tour is where it all comes alive.
“‘Volta’ is ... shaman, voodoo, and big strokes of red and neon colors. It’s harsh, almost brutal ; It’s very physical, almost butch.”
The 13-time Grammy-nominated artist is undoubtedly one of the world’s most eccentric musicians.
Unlike most Western artists who would be keen for positive publicity on their first visit to Shanghai, Björk cancelled her press conference this week because she feels nervous and uncomfortable with media. Her agent was also worried about how she might behave.
The Icelandic singer made headlines in January when she attacked a news photographer over some misunderstanding at the Auckland International Airport in New Zealand. A similar incident occurred back in 1996 at the Don Muang Airport in Thailand when she battered a hapless television reporter.
Furthermore, Björk has some unusual backstage requests for her concerts. Apart from fresh fruits, items to be made available to her tomorrow night include half a bottle of cognac, a bottle of wine and two bottles of iced champagne and a Chinese acupuncturist.
Björk has conquered the charts by making unique, intricately textured music. She is best known for her expressive vocals and an interest in many kinds of music, including pop, alternative rock, jazz, ambient music, electronica and folk. Shanghai 25-year-old Rekko Zuo, a long-time Björk fan, describes her music as “snow in the spring, rain in the late autumn.”
“Those things make people feel low and down, but they truly exist in the world as part of the nature,” she explains. “Her music makes me feel nervous sometimes, but I quite enjoy such a tense feeling.”
When Björk performed at the Sydney Opera House in January, the show apparently opened with the all- female brass section marching on stage dressed in heraldic colors, while the artist herself skipped onto the stage, all painted.
“Björk is so different from any other artist,” says Lisa Cheung who saw her perform live in New York 10 years ago.
“The concert was a mixture of pop, dance and performance art. She yelled and growled, and mixed the music with other voices such as the sound of the heartbeat by using the computer technology.
“To me, sometimes it sounded like Chinese minority singing, and her costumes looked quite folk style as well,” Cheung adds.
In her homeland, Björk is regarded as a queen, the most visible icon Iceland has ever been able to claim. Björk once told The Australian newspaper : “I think I am a very Icelandic person in every way. But I was also the one who went out there and mingled my voice with electricity.”