Bjork in Plymouth: superlative performance art

Bjork established herself as a leading talent fifteen years ago, with her debut release, Debut.  Her elliptical lyrics, exploring the big themes and her richly eclectic musicality – shifting effortlessly between dance beats and roots, Minimalism and jazz, as well as knowing pop and artrock – have long marked her out as a precious musician for grown-ups.

 

Her six studio albums reveal a restless, morphing creativity.  The first four are filleted on Greatest Hits, which repays repeat listening and careful scrutiny – every home should have one.

 

So Tuesday’s Plymouth gig, on the short English leg of the Volta tour, was approached with keen anticipation: a rare chance to check out the poster girl of grown-up pop at first hand.

 

Bjork didn’t disappoint. 

 

Her 90-minute show was superlative performance art.  Interspersing Volta songs with classics from the back catalogue, Bjork treated the largely local audience – there were few signs of travelling hardcore in this far-flung location – to a spectacular show.

 

The trademark vocals, ranging from intimate whisper to banshee howl, delivered the idiosyncratic songbook with a consistent force.  From the opening bars, when she bounded onto stage like a dervish possessed, to the soaring finale when she led the West Country choir in “Declare Independence!”, she acted out her unique catalogue in dance as well as voice. 

 

In a lifetime’s gigging, you’d be lucky to see a more energetic, more committed performer.

 

The show was an ambitious, complex theatrical production, with three keyboardists, a drummer and a horn section of 10, the Wonder Brass (nice touch, that).  Plus costumes, flags, emblems, fire, laser show, confetti storm … the circus was in town …

 

Bjork’s Plymouth show sounded and looked fabulous.  But it all meant something, too.  Working out what, exactly, will provide hours more fun.

 

Musicality, originality, ideas, ambition, execution, charisma… the gel’s got it all.

 

 

 

 

Gerry Smith

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