Looking over my list of the year’s best concerts, I realized that a few of the shows I reviewed for The Daily Southtown are no longer online. Here then, are a few reviews from months back, which I post here in the interest of completeness…
BJÖRK, MAY 12 AT THE AUDITORIUM THEATRE
Whatever you think of Björk — whether you mock her for wearing swans or worship her oddball genius — it’s undeniable that she has a great instinct for showmanship.
The Icelandic star played her first song Saturday night completely hidden behind the Auditorium Theatre’s stage curtains. As that singular voice of hers emerged and fans anxiously waited for the curtains to part, the sense of anticipation was palpable.
And then finally, as she finished a quiet version of an old song, “Cover Me,” the stage was quickly unveiled. Bursts of flames, so bright that they almost hurt the eyes, cast a hellish red glow as Björk and her band broke into the herky-jerky rhythms of “Earth Invaders,” the opening track off her new record, “Volta.”
Wearing a crinkly gold dress, Björk stomped and swayed in front of a strange tableau — colorful banners with images of fish, flags, Icelandic women playing horns and dressed in pastel outfits. After those flames made their brief appearance, the stage seemed less ominous and more like the setting for an international peace conference.
The theatrical flourishes prompted applause but the loudest bursts of clapping came whenever Björk released the full force of her remarkable voice, holding the microphone away from her mouth as she belted out notes from deep in her throat.
Surprisingly, Björk played only four songs from her new album. Instead of focusing on “Volta,” she treated the concert more like chance to offer a sample of music from throughout her career. Though she left out a few of her most popular songs (no “Human Behavior”), it was almost a greatest-hits show.
These weren’t note-for-note simulations of the studio recordings, though. Backed by a drummer, three musicians on keyboards and computers, and 10 women doubling as brass players and backup vocalists, Björk deconstructed some of her tunes, turning them into brass chamber music or harpsichord ballads.
The brass arrangements were beautiful, taking the place of the orchestral strings on songs such as “Bachelorette” or adding grandeur to the more techno tunes. They were a perfect complement to Björk’s voice, which is something of a brass instrument itself.
On some of the more upbeat dance numbers, such as “Hyper-Ballad,” lasers flashed, Björk wheeled around in her regal outfit, and the music hewed fairly close to the spirit of the original recordings.
Comments overheard in the audience made it clear that many fans liked Björk’s selections for the night’s set list. As the crowd filed out, one young woman remarked, “Now I can die happy.”
Venus As A Boy
All Is Full Of Love
Pleasure Is All Mine
It’s Not Up To You
Army of Me