Bjork - Hollywood Palladium - June 2, 2013

Debi Del Grande

Hollywood Palladium
June 2, 2013

Bjork transformed the Palladium last night. 

In both a geographic and metaphysical sense, everything about it was different. For the first of Bjork's four appearances in Los Angeles, a stage was set up in the middle of the floor. Every corner had a musical set up: a harp, marimbas, electronic drumkit, programming gear. Four 10-foot pendulum harps were installed on one corner, and on another side, a conical screen rose up to the ceiling, housing twin musical Tesla coils. 

Double-sided jumbotrons were arranged in a halo above the stage, screening images from Bjork's educational app suite of music (and album), Biophilia. Seats snaked around the set up, making for a helluva tight show -- intimate yet visceral, cerebral yet wholly organic.

Debi Del Grande

The performance was less of a concert and more of an art piece. After an introduction by David Attenborough (who narrated scenes throughout the show),  a chorus of voices rose up as if the heavens were opening.

Then Bjork walked onto the stage.

In the tweaked-out, crystal light of the Palladium, it seemed like Bjork came out singing "Thunderbolt" in a mini dress made of plastic bubble wrap, except that the bubbles were boob-sized. (Later, when I looked at pictures, I found that her dress was more organic-looking, the bubbles patterned more after sea shells than silicone implants.) 

Her massive technicolor afro bounced around as she fist-pumped through her songs, and she jumped up and down on platform glitter booties. She may have looked like a mushroom from a Nintendo game, but she owned that stage like a goddess.

Mostly what I thought of when Bjork commanded the stage was her voice, and how it always made the hairs on the back of my neck rise and went directly to my gut. With a 21-piece female choir backing her up (apparently the beautiful girls with voices like angels were imported from Iceland), the power of her singing was even more consequential; every guttural sound, every ragged note was made more significant.

With the Biophilia educational app (which is part of the Reykjavik official curriculum), Bjork wanted to give children "the opportunity to explore creativity through music, science, nature and new technology," which "is vital to the understanding and practice of contemporary art." 

It seemed like she wanted the audience of last night's show the same experience. It didn't matter that most of her fans had carried over from the Debut days; for Bjork, the marriage of pop music and art is purposeful, and as well thought-out as her song list. (Last night, older hits such as "Joga" and "Pagan Poetry"  were snuck in the set list in the perfect spots -- it whetted die-hard fans' appetite for the familiar -- just enough -- within the Biophilia-centric set).

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