Björk At Echo Beach In Toronto
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By Nick Krewen
Finally landing in Toronto to tour in support of her 2011 GRAMMY-nominated album Biophilia, innovative Icelandic performance artist Björk achieved what the 5,000 fans in attendance expected of her on July 16 at Echo Beach — she delivered the unexpected.
Adorned in a sparkly blue cocktail dress and the larger-than-life red wig that she wore on the cover of Biophilia (representing either a cluster of galaxies or the universe, perhaps) and surrounded by a group of 14 dancing carolers, Björk proceeded to turn the concert experience on its head.
Though she's been previously backed by brass bands and string quartets, on this night Björk was accompanied by a choir to complement the electronic tandem of keyboardist/programmer Matt Robertson and electro-acoustic percussionist Manu Delago by filling in the gaps, such as the string parts of "Jöga," with their heavenly harmonies.
Aided by a couple of giant screens that unleashed a torrent of starfish, shifting landscapes and other images, as well as a Tesla coil that was occasionally lowered from the ceiling to provide an added spark, the colorful singer/songwriter skipped and danced through 15 songs that reached as far back into her catalog as 1995's Post.
Commencing with Biophilia's "Cosmogony," a roaring number of human vocal power and then slipping into the scattershot rhythms of Homogenic's "Hunter," Björk offered numerous reinventions and slight alterations of material new and old. The most memorable was a musical drum-and-vocal duet of "One Day" (from 1993's Debut) with Delago providing both rhythm and melody.
Whether it was the throbbing synth of "Army Of Me" or the tinkling delicacy of "Crystalline," Björk delivered imaginative renditions of her music both aurally and visually that provided emotional and environmental resonance, especially those that were more green-minded.
With a nod to the starfish film that backed "Heirloom," if there was a lesson to be learned from Björk in Toronto on this humid summer night, it was to keep your friends close and your anemones closer.
To catch Björk in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
"Army Of Me"
(Nick Krewen is the Toronto-based co-author of Music from Far and Wide: Celebrating Forty Years of the JUNO Awards, a contributor to The Routledge Film Music Sourcebook and has written for The Toronto Star, TV Guide, Billboard, Country Music. He was a consultant for the National Film Board's music industry documentary Dream Machine.)