Björk is 35 but looks half that. She is a child-woman, padding around the stage in bare feet and wildly clapping her hands. For someone who so vehemently shuns the limelight, she is fabulously unrestrained as a performer, with every word borne out in her body language. She hops on one leg, bends over double, shakes her head and cups her hand conspiratorially over the microphone. As she sings, she opens her mouth as wide as possible as if allowing all the squeaks and susurrations to come out at once. Conversation isn’t Björk’s strong point, though. “I’m better singing than I am talking,” she concedes.
As befits the surroundings, the show is endlessly theatrical, opening with Björk sitting under a spotlight, cranking up an old gramophone and being showered in confetti. A backdrop bears a frozen landscape, and later, biological sketches of seedlings. In the second half, she glides on stage in a scarlet feathered dress, like a blood- drenched dying swan.
She is accompanied by an Inuit choir and Tagaq, a North Canadian throat singer whose guttural wheezing, though undoubtedly impressive, brings to mind the sound of a cow in labour. This must be a first, too, that a harpist is seen playing with an accordion slung around her neck, and moving seamlessly between the two instruments. The San Francisco electronica boffins, Matmos, provide the shuffling bleeps, clicks and whirrings for a selection of new songs, including “Hidden Place” and the pseudo-orgasmic “Cocoon”, as well as the more familiar propulsive groove of “Possibly Maybe” and “Human Behaviour”.
The new tracks betray a curiously submissive tone, though this is not to be mistaken for vulnerability. During “I am Strong in his Hands”, a medieval-sounding folk song accompanied only by harp, the singer grinds the vowel sounds into the ground, eliciting hysterical declarations of love from the audience.
Is it pop ? Is it classical ? Who cares ? Björk is beyond such earthly associations, existing in her own unclassifiable sphere. Musicians who claim to push the boundaries of music are now two-a-penny. Björk is the only one that manages it.