Eventim Apollo – 24th September
Last summer, Björk had to cancel her Vulnicura tour due to the emotional intensity and stress of performing the songs each night. Thematically, it’s one of the most heartbreakingly straightforward albums of this century – Vulnicura is about the crumbling of a relationship, the complications that come with the loss of a shared identity, and the slow recovery process. It’s clear to see the influence she’s had not just on music, but all forms of art – and even though she has always been exceptionally headstrong in her work, her most recent musical output has showed a more exposed side to her, which paves the way for the night ahead.
The first of her two part-performance tonight is dedicated to her most recent release. Playing tracks exclusively from Vulnicura, there are no distractions in screens or lights, and the venue is darkened apart from Bjork’s illuminating white dress and an insect-like headpiece. Tracks ‘Memory of Touches’ and ‘Family’ are particular highlights of this half, gently weaving between the Aurora Orchestra and her pronounced voice. Sadly, a Saturday night crowd does prove restless during the first half of the show – perhaps they’re oblivious to Björk’s new tracks – but the applause and whooping are premature between most songs of the set (as well as in between most verses of the 10-minute ‘Black Lake’).
As the interval passes, so does the mood of the night. Gone is the austere intensity of Vulnicura signaled by bright lighting and solidified by an outfit change into a blood red dress and headpiece. A scattering of earlier works that heavily involve strings followed – ‘Joga’ and ‘Batchelorette’ stunned the room into silence until there was nothing there. It was the ‘best of’ segment of the show, and it seemed like the part everyone was waiting for.
After thanking her audience for their “interest” and praising the work of the orchestra, the last song of the night was an abstract and maximised techno version of ‘Pluto’ off fourth studio album, Homogenic. The fastest paced song of the night ended up becoming as percussive as it was hostile – perhaps the most fitting close to the show, with nods to her newfound solitude as she chants “I’ll be brand new tomorrow, a little bit tired but brand new” to end the song.
In a lot of ways, this was a quite conventional and grounded performance for Bjork, with the focus being very much on her as an individual with nothing clouded or open to interpretation. Previous albums may have taken on many grand visions – some of which embrace advanced technology and multimedia on a colossal scale – but tonight, we find Björk recognising her own personal journey with the help of nothing but herself.
Photos by Santiago Felipe.