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Bjork: Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London, 24/09/16 – Gig Review

26 September, 2016 — by Matt Owen2


I honestly had no idea what to expect going in to this. Despite her diminutive size, Bjork is a cultural colossus, but I’ve always moved in circles outside of her unique take on pop, so this was more than an eye-opener.

On Friday night, Bjork took to the grandiose stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Tonight, in the shadow of the Hammersmith Flyover, it’s going to be interesting to see how well this translates in less-salubrious surroundings of the Apollo.

Backed by the 26-piece Aurora Orchestra, it’s a stripped-back performance. Just the singer, classical instruments and a few sparse lights. Something of a surprise given that less than three miles away at Somerset House, Bjork currently has an AR-driven app-stravaganza celebration of her work in residence.

A photo posted by Hilduryeoman (@hilduryeoman) on

It’s a brave move for any musician, relying purely on charisma and talent. Both of which Bjork has in spades. Taking to the stage clad in a gossamer white outfit that looks like the mutant offspring of a jellyfish and an angel on its wedding day, she barely speaks throughout. A simple ‘Thank you” at the end of each track is all we get. And it’s enough. This is performance. Rolling and jerking through tracks from 2015’s Vulnicura, the waves of visceral emotion roll from the stage and over the heads of an entirely rapt crowd.

Themed around the break-up of her marriage, it’s a dark set full of awkwardness and honesty. Emotionally affecting without ever slipping into mawkishness. Bjork is a delicate figure, stepping delicately about the stage, underlit in stark red. Her vocals are untethered, floating on top of the rumbling, seething strings. Touching down like brief lightning flashes. It’s exhilarating and hypnotic at once.

If the first hour is dark and deep, the second is a storm at sea. The very best performances teeter on the edge, as though everything you are watching is about to collapse into chaos. It’s accomplished tonight, with a pulsing sense of restrained power. The second set is, if not ‘fun’, then a little lighter. Tunes from Dancer In The Dark sweep in, and the set is neatly bookended by ‘Pagan Poetry’ (also about her relationship with former husband Matthew Barney, but seen in a completely different light).

“Thank you for your interest” is the closing remark, as Bjork leaves the stage with a glass of champagne in hand. It’s hard not to be interested when you’re staring at one of the most remarkable touring artists in the world. 5/5

Bjork: Live at Hammersmith Apollo, London


  • thomas

    27 September, 2016 at 4:07 am

    Is Pagan Power a mis-quote of Pagan Poetry?

    • Christopher Ratcliff

      27 September, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Yes it is… thanks Thomas! Have changed it, sacked writer.

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