Nokia Theatre, December 12
Last night’s Björk show at the Dystopia — er, I mean Nokia — Theatre downtown didn’t really start to make sense to me until afterward, when some friends and I ended up at the Pacific Dining Car — “an elegant place to hide” — nearby on Sixth Street, for some Swiss eggs, which were exquisitely creamy, and martinis, made with gin and two olives. The place has the vibe of a pre–World War II–era railcar (think Strangers on a Train). Eating and sipping and laughing, we felt as though we were celebrating a journey we had all taken together, returning home via railcar after a visit to the future, where we saw a performance featuring an elegantly odd lady dressed in sparkly future fashion. This apparition appeared with her 10-piece Lucia Pamela–style all-female brass band and four men playing crazy techno-delic instruments. It was as though we were celebrating the presentation of a collection of ideas, and colors, and above all, sounds, unimaginable where we were from; like we were witnessing some weird ritual. Even down to her name: Björk.
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Dressed in an outfit that my grandpa would have laughed about from now till sundown — some fluffy shiny winged thing — and wearing a golden headband that sprayed sparkles every time she shook her head, Björk appeared only after her brass band, dressed in baggy red-clown-type getups, marched in procession onto the stage and introduced Her with much blurting and bleating. The crowd, a collection of many different Caucasian varieties, from Nordic to Teutonic to American, British and French, spanned generations. Wood nymphs, New Agers, Renaissance Fairies, empowered former grrls, some womyn, even a few hipster grandmas lavished the fair maiden with appreciation, all joined by a shared understanding of the power of beauty. Many testosterone-deprived men mumbled along, half drowning in Nokia’s collected estrogen, and cheered just as loudly as the females when Björk began with “Anchor Song.” “I live by the ocean,” she sang, “And during the night .?.?. I dive into it .?.?. Down to the bottom.” And so we traveled with her, down, down, down.
At the bottom, two men created bubbles and bursts of obnoxious beats and nutty rhythms on electronic equipment that appeared to be beamed from 2525. Flashing handheld devices bleeped and burped. Some of the deepest beats, like during “Hunter,” were so subharmonic that they made my eyeballs jiggle in their sockets. (I swear my sinuses felt great this morning.) Björk’s singular voice swam among these sounds, moving from octave to octave, as strong and seductive as ever, petulant, tempestuous. “Earth Intruders,” with its marching rhythm and insistent progression, sounded like robots walking in formation, and Björk barked her announcements: “Metallic carnage! Ferocity! Feel the speed! We are the Earth intruders! We are the sharpshooters! Flock of the parashooters! Necessary voodoo!” (Wait, isn’t that a Judas Priest song?)
There were some lulls. When Björk gets softer and more abstract, her melodies seem to drift away, her voice wanders aimlessly, unable to quell its desire to stretch and showcase with the need for restraint and at least some semblance of structure. Boring critical qualifications aside, though, Björk the artist is a force of nature. Anyone able to harness so much human energy — all those players, all that glitter, all those contraptions, the animal banners, the strobes — well, hooray for imagination.