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Concert Review: Bjork (Chicago, IL 5/12/07)

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(with Ghostigital)
Saturday, May 12, 2007 8:00pm
Auditorium Theater
Chicago, IL

Ghostigital (opening act): Picture a guy (who apparently used to be in The Sugarcubes) working out some issues by shout-singing a litany of unintelligible pronouncements while another guy at a laptop cranks out blistering electro-thrash. Yikes. I'll be at the bar…

Bjork's outfit: Oversized gold lamé potato sack inscribed with a topographic map of Mt. McKinley. Black spandex with day-glo fuzzy caterpillars glued to them. Barefoot.

The band: A drummer. Two guys on electronics and/or keyboards. Ten-piece all-female brass section with flags sticking up over their heads wearing flowing pastel robes.

The audience: 99.8% Caucasian.

The stage: Colorful banners with pictures of fish (I think) on them hung from above. Occasional pyrotechnic flame bursts and green laser beams. Big screen TVs showing the fingers of the electronics guys pressing buttons and lights and stuff.

(Is it just me, or does all this vaguely nationalistic imagery and the brass brigade combined with the fist-pumping sell-out crowd's perpetual standing ovation look a lot like those fascist rally-esque concert scenes in Pink Floyd: The Wall…?)

Bjork on Volta:

"Because I'd done two or three projects in a row that were quite serious, maybe I just needed to get that out of my system or something. So all I wanted to do for this album was just to have fun and do something that was full-bodied and really up. … Everything that stay[ed] was a little nostalgic, going back to 1992 when you had really simple 808 and 909 really lo-fi drum machines not doing anything fancy but really basic — almost like rave or trance stuff…"

The show: While the new album itself is far from the hook-laden techno-pop confection that Bjork seemed to be hinting at above, this was a concert that aimed to please, interspersing the less familiar new material with plenty of tried-and-true Bjorkian classics.

The beats were big, the bass was phat, the amps were set to eleven. That Icelandic brass section provided mostly visual interest, with the electronics, percussion, and Bjork's vocals competing for dominance in the mix.

The shuffling martial assault of "Earth Intruders" was the sure-fire opening crowd-pleaser… Then there were the more austere Vespertine-era atmospherics that weren't quite as suited to the mega-concert format.

But soon enough Bjork was hitting her stride as the set careened forward… "Army of Me" killed… "Bachelorette" rocked… "Hyperballad" soared.

The final song/hyper-individualist manifesto, "Declare Independence," had none of the menacing techno-punk urgency as heard on Volta and was instead a blast of pure joy and head-banging adrenaline.

By the end, it was almost like being at the techno-rave party of your wildest dreams. The brass and the flags and the lasers didn't matter… it was all about Bjork and the beats.

At last, she actually seemed to be "really up" and having "fun…" And so were we.

Raise your own flag…

[ cell phone photos from flickr ]
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