Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Björk @ Roseland Ballroom / In Space

SPACE: The final frontier. These are the voyages of Fucking Nostalgic. Our mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no person has gone before.

And to see Björk perform Biophilia live, bitches.

With a stage in the round and not a bad spot in the house of Roseland, we waited for the goddess to descend. Björk’s 10-night residency here in the NYC has been nothing short of a crash landing on our home planet, this calculated yet organic melding of all things machine and art. 

In anticipation, our ears were treated to instrumental versions of Björk material (Björkaterial?), glancing at screens halo-ed around the stage, hypnotically flashing Biophilia-themed… things.  Organized with both The Creators Project and the New York Hall of Science, the show’s artistic and technologically savvy aspects are evidenced both in the visual as well as audio environment enveloping the audience. There was a harp. There was a strange, remotely controlled pipe organ. There were Tesla coils (!). There were stunning graphics from the Biophilia Apps (insert bitter Apple comment here) that synched so perfectly with the entirety of the performance, yet maintained a creative, natural feel. Oh, and did we mention the 24-piece Icelandic female choir? Yeah, that was there too, all gold and blue and glittery. Science is glam now, people, get with it.

This multimedia journey into the natural world would not have been complete without Björk’s huge red ‘fro and her metallic blue balloon animal dress (I almost wore mine, how embarrassing). And even though this was my first, I can say without doubt that there is nothing like a Björk show. If a unicorn leapt from the stage and was carried off by a leprechaun over a rainbow, I don't think I would have missed a beat. The sound, at times sparse and bare, manages to fill a room so boldly and completely that it feels like some kind of cosmic force is binding you to everything and everyone nearby. And you like it. You like it a lot

Celebrating artistic process, ideas and movement, the album and its presentation are not just about the music, but about the performance, about the experience for the viewer. With her unmistakable voice carrying the show, Björk tore into “Thunderbolt”, “Moon”, and one of my favorites, “Crystalline”. The syncopated beats and changing rhythms bounced off the walls and into our brains like pinballs. The sometimes aimless and erratic qualities of the record were made significant and directive on stage. There was no meandering through this – these songs came out as statements to be made.

Mixed in to Biophilia were earlier songs, including “Hidden Place” and “Mouth’s Cradle”, showcasing the range of message and intent in Björk’s music. More emotional than ethereal, these did not sound out of place, but served to highlight the human aspect of Biophilia's live, overall feel. The encore featured a stirring rendition of Post’s “Possibly Maybe” and closed with Volta’s politically fueled “Declare Independence”. This is the stuff that face melting is made of.

There is something universal about Björk’s music, something that makes it striking and visceral and almost breathtaking. I went to that show not knowing what to expect, but it was everything I wanted it to be. 

Before the start, we were asked by a very lovely sounding English chap not to take photos, so we didn't, 'cuz that's how we roll. Instead, check out the setlist below and bask in the glory of this Icelandic Space Princess Extraordinaire.

Björk @ Roseland Ballroom Setlist (3/5/2012):

Dark Matter
Hidden Place
Mouth's Cradle
Generous Palmstroke
Sonnets/Unrealities XI
Where Is the Line?
Mutual Core

Possibly Maybe
Declare Independence

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