Björk – Biophilia

Yesterday I had my chance to see Björk perform Biophilia at the Campfield Market in Manchester. It was a curious event. There are 8 new songs, not really enough for a show in its own right so she interspersed the new songs with old ones for which I have no explanation of the choice (other than the fact that they are great songs). Indeed, pure genius to end the whole show with her revolution anthem, Declare Independence. In these times of instablility in the Arab world and Europe (was there ever a better anthem for Greece with its call to ‘set up your own currency’?) ‘Raise your flag’, she implores. Rousing stuff.

Sharpsichord

As for the new songs, most are great, a few not so, but any body of work has weak links. Björk has more of those than most. But she is forgiven by virtue of her uncompromising creativity and sheer talent and commitment. The new instruments, particularly the Tesla Coil with its electrical sparks providing an incredible percussion along with awesome visuals, are worth investigating. The ‘Sharpsichord’ with its over-sized ‘ear trumpets’ looked like H.G Wells’ time machine (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/8481926.stm). The Pendulum Harps – four swaying rods with strings at the weighted end – accompanied a lone Björk on the final song, Solstice. These curious artefacts, however, pale into insignificance against Björk’s own voice and the glorious backing given by the ’30 piece’ female choir that provided the wall of sound – the Biophilia sound – that one takes away.

On first hearing, it is difficult really fully to digest Biophilia’s profundity. The stunning visuals projected onto both sides of screens circling the stage gave a flavour the the complexity of Biophilia and its ‘unseenness’ – small, inside us, under water and under the surface of the earth. Also, as some commentators are describing it, the genius of getting David Attenborough to voice-over the scene setting introduction and to announce each new track. The start, consequently, is a ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ moment, at least for those of us of a certain age.

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