21 mai 1998

Warfield Theatre

San Francisco, États-Unis


Björk Casts a Cool Spell

It’s not the machine’s fault if electronic music has no
soul, Björk likes to argue. Easy for her to say : This
Icelandic pixie has soul—old soul—to burn.

The former lead singer of the Sugarcubes, the late ‘80s
pop collective that put Iceland on the musical map,
Björk Guðmundsdóttir is one of contemporary pop’s
inimitable, and eccentric, performers.

After flaking on more than one scheduled appearance
in the Bay Area recently, Björk finally returned to San
Francisco to headline a sold-out show Thursday night
at the Warfield.

As if to apologize, she weaved a magic spell with her
breathtaking singing, romping around the stage in a
white, long-sleeve mini-dress outfitted with accordion
wings that absorbed the icy blues and greens of her light

Adding to the visual curiosity, her unique backing group
consisted of two distinct elements—sample sculptor
Mark Bell to her left, the Icelandic String Octet to her


After a grinding opening set by one-man synthesizer band Mu-Ziq, Björk took the stage.

“This first song is dedicated to compilation tapes,” she said, introducing “Headphones” wearing a rubbery
white mask on her forehead that perfectly matched the doll-like quality of her broken English accent.
“When a friend makes you a tape, it’s really, really precious.”

Obviously, this woman lives for the pure pleasure of sound. Lyrically, she’s masterly with her own absurd,
kaleidoscopic thoughts : “I don’t recognize myself,” she sang on the opening number. “This is very

What’s most compelling about Björk is that she’s a bundle of seething contradictions. She’s operatic and
base, she’s kitschy and pretentious, she’s mawkish and brutal. Her second solo album, 1995’s “Post,” was
aptly titled—she’s nothing if not postmodern.

“I thought I could organize freedom,” she sang on her second song, “Hunter,” from her most recent album,
last year’s “Homogenic.” “How Scandinavian of me !”


Björk’s singing voice is a marvel, an instrument capable of swooping between brittle bell tones and glottal
shrieks in the space of a few syllables. And it’s just as impressive in a live setting as it is on record. In
particular, her shrill desperation on “Bachelorette” was majestic when coupled with the Octet’s
melodramatic soundtrack.

Passing through relationships as if in a dream is a recurring theme of Björk’s songs, and she asserts her
independence with the high individuality of her voice.

“How could I be so immature to think he would replace the missing elements in me ?” she sang on
“Immature.” “How extremely lazy of me !”

As the string section sat motionless during the dance track “Violently Happy,” Björk raced back and forth
in bare feet to the syncopated thump. She’s an irrepressible dust devil, a former child star who knows
how to command attention.

Throughout the set, Bell tinkered with the layered samples of Björk’s solo albums, from the Portishead-
like hum and crackle of “Possibly Maybe” and the New Order-ish techno beats of “Hyperballad” to the
Pac-Man march of “5 Years.” On many songs, the string section provided a stately classical backdrop that
brilliantly counterbalanced the music’s metallic gloss.

Björk didn’t address her audience much between songs, but when she did, she was a delight. “We are not
very talkative, but we are grateful people,” she said before carrying her bunny slippers offstage. “Sank

After an encore that included the pitched emotional battle of “Joga” and “Play Dead,” her collaboration
with DJ David Arnold, Björk led her group offstage with one last thought.
“I hope you sleep gorgeously tonight,” she said.

James Sullivan - San Francisco Chronicle


01. Headphones
02. Hunter
03. You’ve Been Flirting Again
04. Isobel
05. All Neon Like
06. Possibly Maybe
07. Immature
08. Come To Me
09. 5 Years
10. Venus As A Boy
11. Bachelorette
12. Hyperballad
13. Human Behaviour
14. Violently Happy
15. Plúto
16. Jóga
17. Play Dead

sur scène

  • Icelandic String Octet
  • Mark Bell