Apparently, Björk’s only request for the concert was that she be near the water. That request was easily met as the sun set over Sydney Harbour and 5000 fans went crazy as the all female brass section, dressed in heraldic colours, marched in single file and Björk skipped onto the stage, all tribal and painted, and launched into the chanting chaos of ‘we are the earth intruders, we are the sharp shooters’. It was a moment of madness in every sense of the word, her voice drowned out by the audience and tribal beat of the song. It was a great way to start the gig, all joyous and confusing but, thankfully things got much clearer as the evening progressed.
We needed to hear that voice, crystal clear and sparkling with the beats and electronics providing the perfect accompaniment, and that’s exactly what we got. The set list included material from Volta as well as a good number of crowd pleasers rearranged to include the brass section and clubbed up, to coin a phrase, for maximum dance floor action ; Hyperballad, Pagan Poetry, Pluto, Army of Me. The gig ended with a scorching version of Declare Independence complete with fireworks courtesy of the Sydney Festival.
Ten years since her last appearance in Australia, Björk captured the mood of the crowd, and sang it back to us, mirroring our joy and moving our feet in a gig that was part collective embrace and part ‘necessary voodoo’ ... I could quote Bakhtin and go on about the carnival and the grotesque. There’s a thesis here waiting to be written, on how Björk’s concerts are a celebration of the intimate AND the spectacular and how she creates a hybrid of pop, dance and performance art in a totally unique and contemporary way. Let’s hope it’s not another ten years before she returns.