Fantastic, Fantastical Bjork

Photo by Debi Del Grande.

What was strange about Bjork’s fantastic, fantastical show last night at the Hollywood Palladium was the normal. A choir of young women clad in shimmering, diaphanous gowns singing in perfect, beautiful harmonies accompanied their sister Icelander. Harps, techno beats, electronic marimbas, iPads, strange percussion instruments rocking metronomically on the stage like oil cranes – we Bjork fans are used to those kinds of oddities. But the angel choir was something new, something wondrous.

Photo by Debi Del Grande

While the singer pranced, danced, and cavorted around the stage in a giant purple, green, and pink afro wig, her Siren voice breaking into its inimitable barks, growls, shouts, howls and r-r-r-r-r-r-rolling R’s, the chorus echoed and supported her as a unified front of flaxen-haired maidens and soaring sopranos. Sometimes, they separated into parts, but no singer ever took a solo or raised her voice above the others. All-white, mostly blond, swaying in unison, they enacted the theme of Bjork’s best album, Homogenic. Bjork was the lovable eccentric leading the girls school through this musical lesson about nature and technology, the lunatic running the asylum.

Ms. Gudmundsdottir mostly played songs from her last album, Biophilia. Her original plan with the science-based disc was to present it only in museums and educational settings. Instead, she set up a stage in the center of the Palladium and performed in the round. Some of the experimental songs sort of dissipated into the atmosphere, as they do on the disc. Others – “Crystalline,” “Thunderbolt” – crackled and popped.

Still, it was older tunes, especially the divine “Unravel” — which Thom Yorke has called the best song ever written, and I might have to agree – that showed that Bjork is not just a great conceptual artist and free thinker, but a songwriter for the ages.

Bjork ended the two-hour show with “Declare Independence,” from her album Volta: an unusually direct protest anthem from the often mysterious artist. The choir broke into free-style dancing, each shimmying and shaking to their own muses – finally following their idiosyncratic leader by each doing their own thing. This wasn’t just a concert: It was a transformational journey. If you can, see her Saturday at the Palladium, or even better, Tuesday at the Hollywood Bowl.

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