Words by: Forrest Reda | Images by: Juan Ocampo
Bjork :: 12.12.07 :: Nokia Theatre :: Los Angeles, CA
Bjork has built a career and earned a worldwide audience by doing the unexpected, repeatedly. From her years with The Sugarcubes to her solo albums, the Icelandic singer has visited nearly every genre, always hanging on the bleeding edge of the avant-garde. Dense and polymorphic, Bjork's music is presented as art, with songs as chapters instead of singles. The mixture of musical elixir found on her latest album, Volta, is on par with her previous solo works. The music is classical and futuristic, industrial and pristine. Tribal rhythms, marching drums and orchestral strings fly through hypersonic layers of hip-hop producer Timbaland's keyboards and digital effects. Volta is highly cohesive and has enjoyed commercial success around the world, spending nine weeks at number one on Billboard's Electronic Albums chart. Touring in support of Volta, Bjork visited America for the first time in four years, appearing at Coachella in May and returning to Los Angeles in December for a show at the new Nokia Theatre, located downtown across the street from the Staples Center.
| Bjork :: 12.12.07 :: Los Angeles|
Bjork strives to be an artiste, and her live show is no exception. Every effort is made to replicate the sound of her albums AND everything is recreated live. There are no backing tracks. For this tour, in addition to a full band and several sound technicians manning electronic consoles, she brought a 14 person Icelandic female choir, who also double as a brass section.
The Nokia is built in the new style of mid-sized venues. It is wide and tall, maximizing space for attendees while giving everyone a good line of sight. It's slightly too cavernous for optimum acoustics, but it's a good place to see a show in Los Angeles during the winter when it's too cold at night to be outside at the Greek Theatre or the show is too big for The Wiltern.
Bjork employed plasma screens that added a theatrical twist to her show. The screens were set up in front of the three musical technicians and "appeared" to show the audience an overhead perspective of what the technicians were doing with their hands. I say "appeared" because the screens depicted green pools of plasma that the technicians manipulated with their movements, shifting orbs of light like something out of Minority Report. There was a slight look of the Cremaster Cycle (the renowned art films by Bjork's longtime companion, Matthew Barney) to it as well, and I couldn't quite tell if the screens were actually showing what was happening live or simply replaying images that the technicians were mimicking with their movements.
| Bjork :: 12.12.07 :: Los Angeles|
However, the band and choir were quite real, as were Bjork's impassioned vocals. As a singer, Bjork is truly in a league of her own. Dressed in her typical atypical plumage, the sprightly singer fluttered about the stage with abandon. Sure, it's a performance, but she lived, breathed and reflected the music and lyrics, contorting her body to summon the right tones from within. It's no wonder that Thom Yorke is a big fan, calling her song "Unravel" his "favorite song ever."
In between selections, Bjork thanked the audience, alternating between Spanish and English. The audience stood for nearly the entire show, transfixed by the images and sounds coming from the stage. Bjork's presence is undeniable, and the power of her words was palpable, most sweetly in the beautiful "Wanderlust" and most notably in "Earth Intruders" and her new single, "Declare Independence," which included the following phrases:
Don't let them do that to you
Start your own currency
Make your own stamp
Protect your language
Make your own flag
Raise Your Flag
On this evening the artists, indie rockers and environmentalists of all skin colors and ethnicities that comprise Los Angeles stood together and raised their freak flags with pride, led by the Elfin queen from Iceland who united us all with her pleas to return to nature and rage against the machine which seeks to assimilate us all.
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