At Coney Island’s Keyspan Park, the procession of freaks began early Friday evening, all closing out summer with the high priestess of eclecticism. We were there, walking among the pagans, the redheaded women, the gay glamour-boys, the smattering of blacks (us). Despite the pending ceremony, the homestead of the Cyclones was inelegant as usual. There were kickass pistachio Italian ices, pretzels, beer, and a dude hawking Cracker Jacks. When the draft ran dry, the concessionaires poured red wine into large beer cups. When night fell, Deno’s Wonder Wheel blazed pink and white, and this was somehow right for the ageless pixie Björk.
A barrage of fireworks announced the Icelander’s arrival. She looked exquisitely ridiculous. There were no flamingos, just a black dress with a fuchsia star blooming from the side. Björk jerked awkwardly across the stage, beautiful and Bob Marley like. Then her eight-piece string section whined the opening notes to “Jóga.” Every time she wailed “state of emergency,” flame shot up in jets from in front of the stage. Bombs from the tip of the world exploded again. But her big voice outstripped the pyrotechnics, expanding out over the park. A baby began to cry. Some dude clutching an empty beer bottle and the handles of a stroller produced tiny earplugs.
Bah, the kid would have gotten over it. Who could have resisted the mighty litany Björk unfurled that evening : the vindictive “5 years,” the wistful “Heirloom,” the ascending “All Is Full of Love” ? Or the unlikely ensemble she pulled together—a harpist, string section, and a dude triggering the programmed drums.
Her best rendition was of the worst song on her best album, Homogenic’s “Pluto.” Those drums always feel like icicles at your ears, but on Friday they sent the crowd into a panicked rapture. My girl started hopping up and down like the white girls we used to laugh at. I wanted to hop around like a white girl too, but the song I hate had become hypnotic. This should have been her last number, but the crowd enticed her into an encore. We were grateful to have her back for three more songs. Even without explicitly howling that she was “no fucking Buddhist,” she still left her pagans ecstatically restless.