Live Report: Bjork - Rolling Stone
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Live Report: Bjork

Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, May 11, 1998

In a smoke-filled midtown Manhattan ballroom, hundreds of fans
restlessly awaited the arrival of the Icelandic techno-princess,
Bjork, who was set to hit the stage at 9 p.m. When she finally
sauntered onstage a half-hour late with her pre-pubescent,
flat-footed walk — preceded by eight string musicians and a DJ —
the crowd was nothing short of elated.

Bjork opened with “Hunter,” off her latest album,
Homogenic, the title of which accurately described the
first two-thirds of her performance. The nine or so songs which
followed were expertly arranged and beautifully sung, but each
song, stripped down to strings and drumbeats, sounded much like the
next. Nonetheless, the crowd seemed captivated as the elfin Miss
Gudmundsdottir frolicked around the stage like an awkward
adolescent, swaying her arms (which were encased in the fan-like,
angelic sleeves of a short, white dress) and destroying the English
language in the charming way that only Bjork can. She looked more
like a character out of a Disney cartoon than like a pop star.

When she finally got into the whole scene, Bjork whipped out
older favorites, like “Human Behaviour,” “Violently Happy” and
“Hyper-Ballad.” Her signature accented vocals intertwined with
angular techno sounds and the curvilinear string arrangements of
her backing octet to create the most intricate and beautiful of
geometries. It was complex, yet simple — easy enough to bob your
head to or sit in your seat and watch in awe. The incredible aural
beauty that Bjork and her band created is exactly what her fans
love about her, making the first ten songs of her set even more
perplexing. Were they just a warm-up for the madness and striking
splendor that was to come? Was she having a hard time getting
comfortable? When she said her final “Thank you very much” and
curtsied, there was a sense of incompletion. Wasn’t she just
getting into it?

Gratification was quick, however, when Bjork came back to the
stage to perform an intensely radiant, strings-only version of
“Joga.” She stood on the side of the stage, flanked by cellists and
violinists, singing without inhibition. “And you push me up to
this/State of emergency/How beautiful to be/State of emergency/Is
where I want to be,” she repeated, pushing her arms and voice up,
filling herself with emotion. It was exactly where her fans wanted
to be as well.


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