3 novembre 1995

The Warfield

San Francisco, États-Unis


All you need is Björk

Singer tempers her childlike qualities with sense of pacing and maturity

Björk is such an unlikely pop star. She hails from Iceland, got her start as a child performer, became an anarchic punk rocker, first came to international prominence with her fellow Icelanders in the Sugarcubes, discovered synthesizers at a time when every other alternative rocker has clung to guitars and over the last few years has sold a few million albums. Her lyrics aren’t about typical pop song topics. She doesn’t have a conventional pop personality. And her videos surely leave many MTV viewers scratching their heads.

But she packed the Warfield Friday and Saturday with a show that had crowds roaring. During Friday night’s show, the applause was far more intense than for nearly every show this critic has attended all year. The rapturous response was warranted : Björk presented an evening that succeeded on every level— musical, visual, emotional, physical, spiritual. Along with her exceptional opening act Goldie, Björk proved that showbiz professionalism and pop individuality needn’t be exclusive pursuits.

Her presentation was full of ideas. The theme of the show seemed to be the union of ancient and modern, primitivism and sophistication. Abstract sculptures of tree trunks stood in the background while exaggerated tubing stuck out of the amplifiers and computers, drawing attention to their electronic innards. Four musicians joined the singer, a configuration that flanks nearly every rock star, but this was a highly unusual combination : There was a middle-aged jazz drummer, a woman in a bikini bra, skirt and headphones manning a mixing board, a highbrow keyboardist who played what looked like a church organ and a punky Asian who provided accordion accompaniment.

Obviously, much of the music was preprogrammed : There were more sounds than four people could generate through conventional instrumentation. But the end result was a highly satisfying mix of computerized precision and live musicianship, novelty and tradition. Björk sang songs from her two recent solo albums, but most of the arrangements were completely different than the recorded versions, often times far better. Some of the dancey songs like “Big Time Sensuality” were done as ballads, while a relatively low-key track like “Violently Happy” was turned into the evening’s pounding peak.

Björk has sometimes been too quirky in performance for her own good, but the experience of the last few years has tempered her endearing childlike qualities with a sense of pacing and maturity. Her dress was dignified, her face and neck sparkling with glitter. The crowd jumped and squirmed with an out-of-control enthusiasm usually devoted to grunge and punk bands. When she started hopping around the stage, pandemonium threatened to break out. People were body surfing over the heads and shoulders of others, even during the slow songs. Except for the excessive cigarette smoke it generated, the audience was one of the best of the year. It is so great to be in the presense of people who are flipping out with joy.

That enthusiasm extended even to the opening act, Goldie, a British graffiti-artist-turned-musician. Goldie is the big name in the dance sound known as jungle, a hyper-fast style that employs speeded-up hip-hop rhythms, reggae basslines and techno synth textures and dreamy quieter passages that nearly evoke New Age music. His contribution to the genre is a higher degree of musical sophistication and a whole lot of soul.

Together with two other musicians and a wailing R&B diva, Goldie turned out epic soundscapes of rare beauty and power. The opening song, “Inner City Life,” kept up the drama for an astonishing 20 minutes. This alone accomplished more than most headline acts manage in the course of an evening.

Barry Walters - San Francisco Examiner

sur scène

  • Guy Sigsworth
  • Kobayashi ’Coba’ Yasuhiro
  • Leila Arab
  • Trevor Morais